MARLBOROUGH’S Flora Harris leads a stellar cast of names in the 2015 Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials - and is quietly confident of staying there.
Harris, 27, is ranked 69th in the world and taking on a top class field that features four of the world’s top ten in William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Oliver Townend and Nicola Wilson, not to mention class acts such as Pippa Funnell and Jonathan Paget.
But Harris quietly assumed pole position in Bramham’s flagship CCI three-star event after Friday morning’s dressage test on Bayano with France’s day one leader Gwendolen Fer now down to seventh on Romantic Love.
Ominously breathing down the new leader’s neck is world no 1 Fox-Pitt who is bidding for an amazing ninth win at Bramham and eighth success in the CCI three-star in which his sole representative, Fernhill Pimms, sits second after dressage.
Harris, though, has warned she is no one hit dressage wonder.
“He’s a really good jumper, a fantastic jumper and I would say I am really confident in the horse,” she said.
“I really believe in the horse and we’ve done a lot of preparation and training for this competition but it’s not going to be a walk in the park so to speak.
“There’s plenty to do but we’ll be giving it our best shot.
“If I won here it would certainly be the biggest result of my career, without a doubt. Let’s give it a go!”
Fox-Pitt, meanwhile, says he is quietly confident of yet another victory - but is warning the current leaderboard will likely change dramatically after Ian Stark’s Saturday cross country test.
As part of a British top four, Kitty King on Persimmon and Pippa Funnell on Sandman 7 share equal third.
New Zealand’s Paget is fifth on Shady Grey but Fox-Pitt said: “Saturday is what it’s all about at Bramham.
“The dressage can suddenly pale into insignificance. It’s a real cross country course at Bramham, Ian Stark is always very brave with his questions and I think the work that has gone into the whole course is fantastic.
“A clear round would make for a very happy day.
“We’ve been warned about the weather and let’s hope it’s not too bad.
“But I’ve ridden Bramham in all conditions and you just have to get on with it.”
Expanding on his reasons for sending only one horse to the 2015 event when the likes of Townend are competing four, Fox-Pitt laughed: “I’ve come for a little holiday.
“I had quite a few in Ireland a two weeks ago, I had a busy week there and we’ve just Pimms here.
“It means I’ve had plenty of time to catch up with business back at home and catching up with people here and so far it’s been a bit a rest.
“But Saturday won’t be a rest. Even though you are only doing one cross-country, the adrenalin is pumping and it’s never a relaxing day on the Saturday.
“You’re waiting for the cross country and then hopefully looking forward to the show jumping on Sunday. You’d be lucky to win without a clear round in the show-jumping.
“I’m here every year to have a good go and if it goes my way again I will be very happy.
“It’s just great to be back at Bramham. It’s a favourite event and what an amazing couple of days we have had so far.”
Huddersfield’s world no 7 Townend is 17th on Dunbeau with his ODT Ghareeb 41st and Lanfranco 54th.
Northallerton’s world no 10 Wilson is joint 18th on Bulana while Bingley amateur Charlotte Brear will be proud to have five combinations below her as Manor Missile sits 67th.