New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson has had a winning comeback to three-day-eventing after a serious injury last year, scoring his third Bramham CCI3* win.
Nicholson rode Deborah Sellar’s nine year old Jet Set IV to success this time, following wins on Nereo in 2009, and Henry Tankerville in 2006.
Just a matter of months ago, it was touch and go whether or not Nicholson would ride again after sustaining major neck injuries at Gatcombe last August, in a fall that nearly left him paralysed.
Last to go in the dressage, Nicholson lay fifth with Jet Set IV with 41.0 ahead of Saturday’s cross country test. They cruised around Ian Stark’s tough test to move up to third.
Sunday’s show jumping course set by Di Boddy proved influential, with none of the top six horses managing a clear. Nicholson put the pressure on the top two when he lowered just a single rail so with one hand on the Sugden Perpetual Trophy and the other on the keys to the Equi-Trek Sonic horsebox, all he could do was wait. Second placed Sammi Birch with Hunter Valley also had a rail but also two costly time penalties which then promoted Leicestershire rider Lauren Shannon with Quality Purdey to second. So, it was down to Oliver Townend with MHS King Joules. He had one fence in hand, but no more room for error. The crowd were silent; willing the local rider to go clear but with two rails down the pair dropped to third and victory went to Nicholson.
“I’ve been away for a few months and to win here after the absence feels great,” said Nicholson, who was also seventh on Teseo.
“It’s been such a team effort to come this far. I owe so much to surgeon Jeremy Reynolds who fixed me and of course my wife Wiggy who has stood by me through everything. It’s so tough for her, after all, I’m back doing the sport which nearly ruined me. My owners have been incredible while I’ve been off and they’ve supported me so much. I can’t thank the team who’ve got me here now.”
One journalist asked him; “Are you brave or crazy?” Nicholson thought carefully and coolly replied; “I’d say crazy. It’s easy to be brave. I try to be calculated about it all and ride only the good ones.”
On his win at Bramham, he said: “It was tense at the end but there’s no point worrying about the others and how they ride, you can’t control that. You have to stick to your game plan.”
The win clearly meant a lot to the Wiltshire rider; “It’s touching – the crowd here at Bramham are knowledgeable horse people. You feel they appreciate when you do a good job.”
Jet Set IV, by Nordico, was runner-up in the World Young Horse Championships as a six-year-old.
Competition was stiff in the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC*** section, with British lady riders filling the podium.
Gemma Tattersall rode Christopher Stone’s 12-year-old mare Chico Bella P to victory, and two “Billy” horses filled second and third, with Billy the Red and Sussex-based Tina Cook the runner-up, ahead of Pippa Funnell and Billy the Biz.
“We’re all riding under pressure as we all want the same dream” said Funnell, speaking after her round and referring to the prospect of Rio with selection wide open this year.
The only non-British rider to finish in the top five was Kiwi Tim Price on 10-year-old Bango, posting a clear with two time penalties to finish fifth. Also caught out by the time was British Olympic team hopeful Kitty King, who clocked up an expensive single time penalty on super talented nine-year-old Ceylor LAN. They cleared every fence with room to spare, to move down a place to fourth.
Tom McEwen took his second Bramham title in a tough final phase for the young riders contesting the conclusion of the Bishop Burton College U25 CCI*** with no clear rounds in the show jumping.
Finishing second was 19-year-old Sam Ecroyd on his own gelding Wodan III.
Up and coming rider, 24-year-old Emily Pragnell who’s based near Lincoln, had just four faults on Maxine and Dennis Pragnell’s and her own DHI Beaunesse and were shocked to zoom up the leaderboard to finish in third place.
Unfortunately, after finishing so confidently to be in second position on Saturday, Bert Bolton on his own ex-racehorse Purple Sands had six poles down and two time faults to finish on 72.6 penalties down the leaderboard in tenth place.
It was an inspiring win for Tom McEwen, who won this class in 2013. On Sunday he had two fences in hand going into the show jumping ring and just rolled a pole to finish on 46.8 penalties aboard Frank and Jane Inn’s Toledo De Kerser. “He’s a real good horse and really deserves it,” said a thrilled Tom, “he’s a very exciting future prospect.”