British riders are firmly on course for double success at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
And it could also be a Yorkshire double on home territory, with Oliver Townend and Holly Woodhead leading the way.
Townend will win Bramham’s CCI3* if he jumps clear on Sunday aboard MHS King Joules, as he holds a two-penalty advantage over Australian Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II following a brilliant cross-country clear inside the time.
Also firmly in the mix, though, are New Zealander Andrew Nicholson — he lies third on Jet Set IV — and Lauren Shannon, riding Quality Purdey, in fourth.
“We were really hopeful for the horse to put up a big performance,” said Townend, whose career title success include Badminton and Burghley, but never Bramham. “We know that he’s very capable.
“He has got everything he needs to be absolutely exceptional — a good horse, full stop. If I do my job and he does his, then it’s all positive.
“It’s very special here — a fantastic event that I’ve been coming to for as long as I can remember. I am extremely pleased with the horse, and even more pleased for his owner, Tom Joule. Let’s hope we are in the same set up on Sunday night.”
York-based Woodhead leads the CIC3* on her consistent performer DHI Lupison. An immaculate cross-country display left them on a score of 40.0 penalties and in pole position after dressage leader Pia Munker withdrew.
Like Townend, though, Woodhead knows a clear round is essential ton win the CIC title, given that Gemma Tattersall and Chico Bella P are just 2.7 penalties behind in second, with Tina Cook (Billy the Red) third, Paul Tapner (Yogi Bear VIII) fourth, Tattersall (Quicklook V) fifth and Kitty King (Ceylor LAN) sixth.
Meanwhile, the second leg of this year’s inaugural Event Masters Series was won by China’s Alex Hua Tian, riding Don Geniro.
French riders monopolised the podium after the opening event at Chatsworth last month, but this time it was Hua Tian who stepped up to the plate, posting a cross-country clear inside the time to finish on a score of 40.1 penalties and take the £16,000 winner’s purse.
American Clark Montgomery, riding Loughan Glen, was second, with Jonelle Price (Faerie Dianimo) third, Bill Levett (Shannondale Titan) fourth and leading British finisher Rosalind Canter (Allstar B) fifth.
The series now moves on to Barbury, in Wiltshire, next month, followed by Gatcombe, Blair Castle and Blenheim. The rider with most points from their best four rides will collect an overall champion’s prize of £30,000.