Eventing’s northern lights are set to shine brightly next week with confirmation of a stellar entry for the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth and current world number one William Fox-Pitt lead an outstanding cast-list that features six former Bramham winners across the headline CCI and CIC three-star classes.
It provides further confirmation of Bramham’s high-profile status on the eventing map, with riders flocking to a competition that was founded 41 years ago and takes place in glorious Bramham Park, which is situated between Leeds and Wetherby in West Yorkshire.
Auffarth is currently spending time in Britain with German eventing team coach Chris Bartle, the Yorkshireman who masterminded recent Olympic, World and European titles, and she will contest the CIC three-star aboard Opgun Louvo.
German ace Auffarth and Opgun Louvo were individual bronze medallists at London 2012, and then won the world title in Normandy last September. She rarely competes in Britain, so her appearance represents a major coup for Bramham organisers as they put the finishing touches to preparations for this year’s event, which runs from June 11-14.
Fox-Pitt, who this week reclaimed the world number one spot from Auffarth’s fellow German star Michael Jung, has a remarkable record at Bramham.
He has won the CCI three-star a record seven times, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with his reigning Badminton champion and likely 2016 Rio Olympics ride Chilli Morning, and this year he arrives with a former Bramham CIC three-star for eight and nine-year-olds winner Fernhill Pimms.
The CCI three-star offers a first prize of just under £6,000, in addition to a year’s use of an Equi-Trek Sonic horse box, and it promises to be eagerly-contested.
Yorkshireman Oliver Townend, who has never won Bramham’s three-star, will arrive with Skyhills Cavalier, Dunbeau and ODT Ghareeb, while New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – a previous champion on Nereo – has MHS King Joules and Perfect Stranger, while former European individual gold medallist Tina Cook is on Star Witness and Calvino II.
There are potential winners throughout the entry list, with Pippa Funnell aiming her recently-crowed Chatsworth champion Sandman 7 at the Bramham title, while the chances of Kitty King (Persimmon), Sarah Cohen (Treason) and Francis Whittington (Fernhill Highlight) also cannot be discounted.
Visitors to Bramham will also have an opportunity to watch some of eventing’s brightest young talent in action, courtesy of the Bishop Burton College Under-25 CCI three-star, with Tom Jackson looking to successfully defend his title amid a strong challenge from riders like Dani Evans, Emily King and Holly Woodhead.
The action starts at Bramham on Thursday, June 11 with dressage for the CCI and CIC sections, while the under-25s are all day Friday, and Saturday sees riders in all sections tackling Ian Stark’s stunning cross-country challenge, before Sunday’s showjumping finale.
British Showjumping classes are also on the Bramham schedule, highlighted by the Wetherby Skip Services Grand Prix and the Bramham Classic. Entries include a remarkable seven members of the Whitaker family – Ellen, George, James, William, Joe, Steven and Louise – in addition to Robert Smith, Kerry Brennan and Pippa Allen.
And Bramham additionally hosts a number of classes in the Hunter Show on Thursday, including Horse of the Year Show qualifiers for light, middle and heavyweight and working Hunters, and a Dubarry Burghley young event horse four and five-year-old qualifier ahead of the prestigious championship final at Burghley in September.
Image: Pippa Funnell riding Or Noir de la Loge in the CCI*** at Bramham last year