BLESSED by her strongest ever team of horses, Northallerton pace-setter Nicola Wilson does not hide her desire to land a maiden triumph at this year’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
This year’s extravaganza began with a bang in West Yorkshire yesterday with the opening day’s dressage tests performed in front of a relaxed crowd reaching for the sun cream under blue skies and 20 degrees heat.
And it was two women in Wilson and French star Gwendolen Fer who shone brightest with the Northallerton rider’s Annie Clover leading the CIC three-star and Gallic raider Romantic Love out in front in the flagship CCI version.
Wilson, 38, helped Great Britain to a team eventing silver at the London 2012 Olympics with the much missed Opposition Buzz yet, with horses like Annie Clover and Watermill Vision at her disposal, her best is likely yet to come.
The world No 10 sends Watermill Vision into action this morning – also in the CIC three-star – while rising youngster Bulana is the rider’s sole hope in the CCI three-star.
Bulana will be the penultimate horse to undertake the CCI dressage test this afternoon – by which time prolific Bramham winner William Fox-Pitt will have unleashed the well-fancied Fernhill Pimms, his only entry in 2015.
Fox-Pitt has savoured eight wins at Bramham and Wilson just desperately yearns for one victory, especially having been denied in cruel circumstances when third in 2007 on Skiver and also second in 2009 on Master Banks.
Wilson told The Yorkshire Post: “You try not to put that pressure on yourself but everybody is desperate to win, of course they are.
“And I have actually gone into the showjumping on two occasions with that chance of winning – in the lead.
“With Master Banks quite a few years ago he actually jumped a clear round to win but sadly got a time fault which knocked us to second.
“It’s an event that obviously I would just love, love, love to win. I’ve been so close on a number of occasions and perhaps I’ve had every other placing but the first.”
Wilson looks to have a particularly strong hand in the CIC with Annie Clover and Watermill Vision both stepping down in class after excelling at CCI four-star level at Kentucky Rolex in April.
Annie Clover is in an especially strong position after yesterday’s dressage score of 37.4.
Wilson also insists that Annie Clover’s dressage test could have been even better.
“She was superb,” said Wilson.
“She did a lovely test there and I was absolutely delighted with her. She was very soft, very ridable and she felt very elegant.
“Just the last change was a little bit unfortunate, it felt as though it was a clean change but it wasn’t. It was a little bit abrupt I thought but I am delighted with the way she has performed in there.
“Please let’s not tempt fate but I have got the nicest string of horses that I’ve ever had.”
Yorkshire’s other major hope for the weekend – Huddersfield’s world No 7 Oliver Townend – had to settle for sitting 24th in the CCI with Lanfranco with his Samuel Thomas II equal 19th with Beverley’s Gary Parsonage on Highland Cavalier in the CIC.
Frenchwoman Fer leads the CCI with Romantic Love’s dressage score of 42.8 just eclipsing Britain’s Lydia Hannon with My Royal Touch and the USA’s Lauren Kieffer with Veronica, with both pairs joint second after a dressage effort of 44.7. But several big guns are yet to be fired and Townend shoots two more darts at the CCI three-star today with Dunbeau this morning and ODT Ghareeb in the afternoon.
New Zealand’s world No 4 Andrew Nicholson will also unleash his second CCI three-star entry Perfect Stranger this afternoon with his MHS King Joules already well-placed in fifth – despite the rider being less than happy with his dressage test.
And at the other end of the experience spectrum, Bingley’s Charlotte Brear and Womersley’s Sophie Platt were just delighted to rub shoulders with the sport’s big names.
Platt, 21, was merely “pleased and relieved” to get through her CIC three-star dressage test on Be Be III who sits 34th in the CIC and it was the same thoughts for Brear, Yorkshire’s sole amateur rider competing against all the big names in the CCI three-star.
Modest Brear, 27, sits 32nd and said of her dressage test: “I’m definitely glad it’s done. But hopefully he’s got a good enough mark so he’s not at the bottom. He’s never going to be competitive against these dressage people.”
Grafton’s James Sommerville is in action this morning with Talent in the CIC three-star while Huddersfield’s Hannah Taylor and York’s Holly Woodhead feature as the CCI three-star under-25s event also starts today.