Spotlight falls on Bramham as London 2012 looms large

William Fox-Pitt riding Lionheart during the Dressage.
William Fox-Pitt riding Lionheart during the Dressage.
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THE final preparations are now underway for next week’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials which can boast the biggest and best entry ever in its 39-year history.

With the eventing calendar devastated by the wet weather, Bramham will be in the spotlight with a record entry of 250 horses from 17 nations taking part in its three competitions.

Many of the riders will be seeking Olympic selection and in order to accommodate the extra riders, and after some speedy re-organisation by the team at Bramham, the cross country will run on both Saturday and Sunday next weekend.

Leading the home challenge will be British riders William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French and Yorkshire’s Nicola Wilson, who were part of the bronze medal winning team at last year’s European Championships.

Zara Phillips, Tina Cook, Sarah Cohen and Lucy Weigersma will all be looking for top performances to impress the selectors. Pippa Funnell, Clea Phillips, Ruth Edge and Polly Stockton are also competing and have fared well at Bramham before.

William Fox-Pitt will be trying for his sixth Bramham title and with five horses entered over the two sections, he has every chance. Piggy French will have her team horse, Jakarta, and will be among the favourites.

But the Yorkshire crowd will have the treat of seeing Nicola Wilson riding her long-term partner and team stalwart, Opposition Buzz, in the CIC three star. She will also be riding Applejack 11 and Inde in the CCI-three star.

The home riders will have plenty of competition however, with the Kiwi trio of Mark Todd, Caroline Powell and Andrew Nicholson likely to put up a strong fight.

Sam Griffiths (Australia), Bettina Hoy (Germany) and Vittoria Pannizon (Italy) are also in the running plus there will be strong contingents from both Sweden and France.

The Bishop Burton College Under-25 section is the place to spot possible stars of the future.

Chinese rider Alex Hua Tian has entered two horses and former European champion, Emily Parker with Treefers, second last year, will be hoping to take the title this time around. Ben Hobday, Angus Smales and locally based James Sommerville will also be keen to make their mark.

Saturday and Sunday will also feature British Showjumping classes and some notable Yorkshire riders will be competing. John Whitaker, daughter Louise and nephews William and George are there along with Northallerton’s Paul Barker. Other well known names include father and son, Geoff and James Billington, Peter Murphy and Scott Smith.

Sunday will feature the Wetherby Skips Grand Prix which has a first prize of £1,500.

Other attractions over the four days include hunter show classes with Horse of the Year Show qualifiers for light, middle, heavyweight and working hunters; Burghley Young Event Horse four and five-year-old qualifiers and event horse breeding and young stock classes.

The Pony Club mounted games will be on Saturday and Sunday and there will also be team showjumping on the Saturday.