Captain’s rise puts Sommerville’s GB debut in sight

GRAFTON’s James Sommerville hopes 2015 will mark his Team Great Britain international debut – on a horse blossoming earlier than envisaged.

RISING DUO: Grafton eventer James Sommerville with Captain Levade. Picture by Tony Johnson. TJ100649b.

Rising eventing star Sommerville had hoped to aim stable star Arco BB at this year’s two-star European Championships in the Netherlands in August.

The former Boroughbridge High School pupil was then left frustrated when Arco BB was moved to Piggy French’s yard in Northamptonshire, but the Yorkshire ace has found an able ‘deputy’ in Captain Levade.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Despite being just seven years old, the 16-hands gelding and his rider have been long listed for this year’s two-star Europeans – an event which would mark Sommerville’s Team GB international debut.

It would be sooner than first anticipated but the 26-year-old rider, who learnt the ropes with Huddersfield’s former world No 1 Oliver Townend, hopes his star will continue firmly on the ascendancy in 2015.

Sommerville said: “I’ve not represented Great Britain before and it’s good to be on the long list. I’ve competed at internationals like Bramham before however this is the first time I’ll have been considered for representing the country.

“I’m not on the team yet but it’s good to be being looked at and considered, as well as getting your name out there. Plus, Captain Levade wasn’t even the original first choice.

“I was going to put forward the grey horse that I had, Arco BB, but that all went a little bit wrong when the horse left the yard. So I put Captain Levade forward instead and he’s done really well. The selectors want to see how we get on at early events, but I would hope to get on the team because I feel I would be one of the better riders that have been put forward. The horse is inexperienced but I would be quietly confident.”

However Captain Levade fares with the Team GB selectors, the seven-year-old gelding and Sommerville are certainly approaching the start of the 2015 eventing season on a massive high. Sommerville ended the year 33rd in the British Eventing riders rankings – a career-high position – and 18th best Brit.

Arco BB is now with last year’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials winner Aoife Clark but Sommerville is continuing his own rise up the ranks. Sommerville beamed: “Last year was a really good year. All the young horses went well and Captain surprised us in getting put forward for the European two-star team, which is obviously good press. Last year will take some beating but we will give it a damn good go!”

The challenge to better 2014 will begin when the 2015 British Eventing season starts in just over seven weeks’ time over the weekend of Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8.

Sommerville will take some younger horses to either Aston le Walls or Askham Bryan for the season opener, before taking more experienced members of his team to Oasby the following weekend.

He then hopes August will feature his maiden representation for Great Britain on Captain Levade but Sommerville stresses that however this year develops, his two-star Europeans hopeful has time on his side.

Sommerville added: “It’s a massive ask as he’s only seven-years-old but he has all the attributes and talent to do it - it’s just whether he’s mature enough. I would think he would be by far and away the youngest horse on the long list and he doesn’t have that much experience at that sort of event, but we’ll give it a go. If he’s selected it would be brilliant and he certainly was very good last year. All you can do is train hard and cross your fingers that he’s as good again!”