YORK’S Holly Woodhead claimed her first ever three-day victory at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, saying she was inspired by her grandad who passed away just a fortnight ago.
Woodhead, 21, claimed a hugely popular triumph in Sunday morning’s Bishop Burton College CCI three-star under-25s event, some 20 hours after Northallerton’s Nicola Wilson also landed her first Bramham triumph on Annie Clover.
Wilson bagged the CIC three-star event on a horse owned by her parents Mary and Barry Tweddle while Sunday afternoon saw Marlborough’s Flora Harris claim victory in the weekend’s flagship CCI three-star on Bayano. Yet from a Yorkshire perspective it was Woodhead who stole the show, riding DHI Lupison who was owned by her grand-father Allan until his passing on the last Sunday in May.
Woodhead, who is now based near Swindon, had raced into a clear lead with Friday’s superb dressage score of 33 and the ice-cool rider then held her nerve to go clear in Saturday’s cross-country test with a time one second inside the optimum.
The youngster could then afford to knock two fences down in Sunday’s show-jumping finale but produced an impeccable clear round to light up a drizzling day in style. This weekend’s Bramham success is likely to be the first of many for one of the sport’s hottest rising stars – but few victories, if any, will be more poignant or memorable.
Woodhead saw off fellow Brit and close friend Dani Evans whose Smart Time and Raphael II respectively finished second and third and told The Yorkshire Post: “I still can’t believe it – I don’t think I will for another two weeks – I’ve been coming to Bramham since I was nine-years-old.
“It’s a shock to have won and I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. He’s an exceptional horse.
“The fact the horse was owned by my grandad is the hardest part and it’s also my first three-day win actually. For all of it to happen in one go is a lot to take in but it couldn’t have happened any better. I think my grandad was watching over me. I went into Sunday’s show jumping thinking I don’t want any fences down but he didn’t feel like he was going to touch a thing.”
Northallerton’s London 2012 silver medallist and world no 10 Wilson also proved untouchable in the CIC three-star, regaining first place from Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz in Saturday’s cross country finale. Both combinations recorded clears on Saturday morning’s show jumping phase but Wilson’s Annie Clover had the superior speed over the cross country course as time penalties demoted Funnell and Billy The Biz back to second.
Wilson, 38, was bagging her first victory at Bramham in her 11th year competing there and beamed: “It feels fantastic and I can’t quite believe it’s happened. To win here in Yorkshire at Bramham on Annie Clover who is owned by my parents is magical.”
Runner-up Funnell had predicted that the more experienced Annie Clover would regain the lead over the cross country course and joked: “I didn’t want to be unpopular with the Yorkshire locals so when no-one was looking we went off into the woods and went for a trot.”
Wilson also took fourth in the CIC three-star with Watermill Vision but her Bulana was retired on the cross country course of the CCI three-star event in which Marlborough-based Harris beat off Kitty King and Persimmon.
“I’m overjoyed,” beamed Harris. “This is such a prestigious evet.”
Eight-time Bramham winner and world no 1 William Fox-Pitt sat second after cross country on his sole 2015 entry Fernhill Pimms but putting two fences down in Sunday’s show jumping finale put paid to his charge as he finished fifth.
France’s Gwendolen Fer finished third on Romantic Love while ODT Ghareeb fared the best of Huddersfield’s world no 7 Oliver Townend’s trio as he finished 15th with Lanfranco 30th and Dunbeau 47th.
Charlotte Brear, Yorkshire’s sole amateur in the CCI three-star, finished a hugely respectable 38th with a performance highlighted by Saturday’s clear cross country round. Womersley’s Sophie Platt also enjoyed a clear cross country round which was also inside the time in the CIC event as she finished 36th on Be Be III. Townend’s Samuel Thomas II finished 11th with Grafton’s James Sommerville 20th on Talent, ahead of Beverley’s Gary Parsonage who ended up 30th on Highland Cavalier.
Huddersfield’s Hannah Taylor competed in the under-25s event and was eliminated from the cross country on Utrillo. That event belonged to Woodhead with runner-up Evans admitting: “She deserved it. I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else to beat me, apart from Holly.”