Best man jumps at chance to make wedding

TOP eventer Oliver Townend will attempt to combine a cross-country test with best man duties on Saturday.

Oliver Townend riding Neo DU Breuil takes on the Dickinson Dees Beachside water jumps at Bramham

He faces a mad two-hour dash after saddling up for the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

Mr Townend, 31, who was born in Huddersfield, had raised doubts about his participation in the event due to his role as best man at friend Peter Clough’s wedding at Ripley Castle, near Harrogate, on Saturday afternoon.

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But the former world No1 has been handed a great opportunity to fulfil both roles by being drawn first to compete over the cross-country test.

Mr Townend and his mount ODT Ghareeb are due to tackle Bramham’s famous fences at around 11am – just two hours before fellow former Salendine Nook High School pupil Mr Clough ties the knot with fiancée Erron Lloyd at 1pm.

And Mr Townend insists he will have few problems hot-footing it to Ripley Castle suited and booted – complete with best man speech and ring – with the Yorkshireman already having Saturday’s hectic itinerary planned to perfection.

He said the draw for the competition had been kind to him. “It’s my best friend’s wedding and I’ve just been very fortunate in getting drawn the first to go,” Shropshire-based 
Mr Townend told The Yorkshire Post.

“It’s not a very good draw for the competition but at the same time it’s a helpful draw for the wedding.

“Hopefully I will get around fairly sharpish and then as soon as I’ve finished hop off, have a quick shower, get into the suit and then to the wedding!

“I’ve had quick turnarounds before but not for a wedding, that’s for sure.

“Let’s hope it all works out but Ghareeb will be on at 11 and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work out from a timing point of view.”

Mr Townend has another horse entered for cross country duty called Black Tie but he is likely to be withdrawn from that test to allow the rider to fulfil both roles.

Unsurprisingly, before being drawn first on ODT Ghareeb, he thought fulfilling starring roles at both Bramham and Ripley Castle would be nigh on impossible.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post in the spring, Mr Townend admitted: “I like Bramham as an event but also my best friend from being at school is getting married on the Saturday.

“I don’t know whether I can fit in the cross country and the best man’s speech on the Saturday! I’ll see how it goes! “Bramham is unlikely but Peter is definitely the only person that I’d miss an event for I think, though we have also got a best man on standby because they know how unreliable I am! We’ll see how we go.”

But now there is no trepidation at all from Mr Townend who is remaining as cool as a cucumber ahead of a race against time and a weekend to remember.

Following his best man duties, the eventer will stay overnight in Ripley on Saturday before returning to Bramham for Sunday’s finale of the show-jumping phase.

He will barely have time to catch his breath, but shrugged: “There won’t be much stress I don’t think.

“I’ll just do one job and then do the other job. It’s quite simple, isn’t it?”

The online ticket store for Bramham has now closed but daily tickets are available on the gate with prices starting at £12 per adult.

Children under 12 are admitted free while car parking is £5.