Huddersfield’s Oliver Townend shrugged off the disappointment of agonisingly missing out on a first win at Bramham, declaring: “at the beginning of the week I’d have definitely signed for third.”
Townend looked destined to win this weekend’s flagship CCI three-star on MHS King Joules who led and had the luxury of one fence in hand heading into today’s show jumping finale.
But in front of a packed Yorkshire crowd, Townend had his fans gasping when taking down the second fence and then ended his chances of victory when also de-railing fence 8A.
The 33-year-old had admitted it would be a “dream” to land his first win at Bramham, especially three weeks short of Team GB naming their four-rider squad for the Rio Olympic Games.
Ironically, Townend’s double show jumping blow handed victory to New Zealand’s former world No 1 Andrew Nicholson – who used to ride MHS King Joules but was bagging his third win at Bramham on Jet Set IV.
Another Brit, Lauren Shannon, rose to second on Quality Purdey as Townend had to settle for an unlikely looking third.
But sporting a broken nose that he picked up on Note Worthy in Saturday’s cross country round, Townend put on a brave face in the aftermath of yesterday afternoon’s dramatic conclusion and was even prepared to share a joke with the victorious Nicholson.
“I’m used to that sort of thing,” said Townend, reflecting on the show jumping heartache.
“And it’s about time he passed me a proper jumper on isn’t it?
“Bramham is a fantastic place to compete which is why it gets the crowds it gets and the riders it gets and the calibre of horses it gets.
“At the beginning of the week, I’d have definitely signed for third and it’s obviously a horse that Andrew has ridden and Mary King has ridden here before. He knows the place well, which doesn’t always make it any easier or more difficult. I am very, very pleased with the way he has gone.
“If I went back in there again I would do a couple of different things and I’d probably win it but that’s the sport we are in,” he added. “It’s been a good experience, I have learnt more about him and it’s on to the next big one as soon as possible with him.”
Nicholson, who is 54, has now won Bramham’s flagship event three times after being successful on Henry Tankerville in 2006 and Nereo in 2009.
But the 2016 victory was particularly sweet for the rider who suffered major neck injuries after a fall at Gatcombe last August where he narrowly missed paralysis.
Nicholson reasoned: “All three wins feel very different and obviously this one, with me being out for a while and the predicament that I was in for a while, it’s quite unbelievable really.
“I just wished Oli all the best. We are good mates and what will be, will be. If he jumps a clear round he wins, if he doesn’t, I might. This is a beautiful place and it’s always a pleasure to come here.”
Townend also finished ninth on Samuel Thomas II, who ironically produced a foot perfect clear show jumping round that was inside the time.
Northallerton’s James Sommerville, who learnt the ropes when based with Townend, proudced his best ever display to finish a fantastic 11th on Talent. Bingley’s Charlotte Brear was next in the Yorkshire pecking order, finishing a hugely creditable 28th on Manor Missile, just ahead of Scarborough’s Bramham debutante Phil Brown who can take a bow after finishing 31st on Miss Brodie.
Northallerton’s London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nicola Wilson finished 42nd on Bulana who was joint-third after dressage.
And Hull-based rider Rachel Robinson also completed her first CCI three-star at the third attempt, finishing 43rd on MJI Limmerick Bell.
Another of Townend’s mounts, Sandiman II, was retired in Saturday’s cross country test.
Earlier, three poles down denied York’s Holly Woodhead a dream win in the CIC three-star as fellow Brit Gemma Tattersall claimed victory on Chico Bella P.
Tattersall – who was second overnight – jumped a perfect clear inside the time in yesterday morning’s show jumping finale meaning Woodhead needed the same on leader DHI Lupison.
But three fences down caused gasps among the large spectating crowd as the 22-year-old dropped from first to eighth.
“Obviously that’s our sport and it’s really hard to deal with,” said Tattersall of Woodhead’s misfortune.
“Holly is a great competitor and she’s very sweet and came up and congratulated me. Holly will come out and win again – there’s no doubt about that.
“She’s an extremely talented young rider.
“She’s only 22 and to have done what she has achieved so far is pretty amazing. I’m sure she will go on to achieve a lot more things.”
Tattersall’s victory significantly strengthened her already strong claims of boarding the plane to Rio and the rider beamed: “I absolutely love Bramham. It’s one of my favourite events. I love the park here, it’s such a great atmosphere, it’s really well run and we always have a really good time here. Being third at Badminton and winning here is at the top of what I have achieved. I’m just trying to keep up the momentum and stay positive and keep everyone in one piece and enjoy it.”
Kristina Cook claimed second on Billy The Red courtesy of a perfect clear round while Pippa Funnell climbed from eighth to third by doing likewise on Billy The Biz.
Wilson rose from 15th to sixth with her perfect clear on One Two Many while a clear from William Fox-Pitt on Chilli Morning saw him finish ninth.
Harrogate’s Hazel Towers jumped clear and with just three time penalties to finish a fabulous 18th on Simply Smart.
Woodhead’s boyfriend Tom McEwen then won the competition’s Bishop Burton College under-25s CCI three-star on Toledo De Kerser, becoming the first ever rider to win the event for a second time.
Not one combination went clear over yesterday’s show jumping finale and McEwen could afford two rails down when leading and last to go.
The 25-year-old put the second to last fence down but finished 4.5 points clear of fellow Brit Sam Ecroyd on Wodan III.
Another Brit, Emily Prangnell, rose from seventh to third on DHI Beaunesse after Bert Bolton put six fences down on Purple Sands to finish tenth.
Womersley’s Sophie Platt also successfully completed her first CCI three-star, finishing 14th on Be Be III. A victorious McEwen said: “It feels good – the same as the first win here did! This place is lovely, it really suits what I like and all that I like about eventing. It’s been a fantastic week.”
The new CIC three-star Event Riders Masters was concluded on Saturday tea time with victory going to Cheshire-based Chinese ace Alex Hua Tian on Don Geniro.
The USA’s Clark Montgomery was second on Loughan Glen with New Zealand’s Jonelle Price third with Faerie Dianimo.
Rosalind Canter was top-placed Brit, finishing fifth with Allstar B. Townend finished 15th on Note Worthy with Yorkshire rider Wilson 21st with Annie Clover. Tian became the first Chinese equestrian rider to win at three star international level on British soil and said: “I can’t believe it, we were last at Chatsworth and to be here and win is extraordinary.”