Bramham CCI-L 4* sections shine on Super Saturday


Cross-country day at Bramham is always a crowd-favourite, with people coming from near and far to enjoy a day packed with some of the best equestrian sport on offer. This year’s offering was made even better by cloudless blue skies, with a light breeze keeping temperatures at a pleasant level. With three sections of cross-country, plus showjumping for the CCI4*-S combinations, there was plenty of sporting action on offer to keep everyone entertained.

Funnell rolls back the clock to head the CCI4*-L 

Bramham’s showpiece CCI-L 4* got Super Saturday underway as competitors tackled Ian Stark’s supreme cross-country course early this morning. Pathfinders Aaron Millar and Heidi Bates’ KEC Deakon set the tone with a copybook round to finish just 11 seconds over the time – the perfect example to settle the nerves of the riders watching on.

Second to go was Piggy March riding John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn’s Brookfield Cavalier Cruise. The pair were the early pace-setters on the first day of dressage, only to be overtaken by Izzy Taylor and Happy Days right at the close of day two. Finishing today an eventual sixth, the duo looked foot-perfect around Ian Stark’s cross-country test. Piggy is renowned for having an inbuilt stopwatch and it was functioning accurately today because they stopped the clock bang on the optimum time of 10.20 to add nothing to their dressage of 30.8 and set the early marker for the others.

Before long, it was the turn of Izzy and Happy Days to see if they stay ahead of Piggy and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise. The combination, who started at Badminton in May but encountered issues on cross-country, headed to Bramham in search of a confidence-giving round. They were travelling well and clear up until the Speedi-Beet Double at fence 19, when Alex Colquhoun, Caroline Wilson and Lavinia Taylor’s grey jumped the oxer under the tree with such power, he never locked on to the triple-brush skinny which followed on a downhill left-bending line. Izzy re-presented and jumped in the second time, but their chances of featuring well had been dashed.

It was then the turn of Pippa Funnell, who earlier in the week declared on social media that she first rode here in 1987! Since that debut, she’s gone on to take the Bramham top honours on three occasions, firstly in 1992, then ten years later in 2002 and most recently in 2010. She travelled north with a relatively new horse in Sarah Ross’s MCS Maverick, with the plan of simply learning more about her new charge. Therefore, no one was more surprised than Pippa when they found themselves in second spot after dressage. Today’s cross-country ride was an example of the mastery of this rider to partner an inexperienced horse in perfect balance and, in turn, give him confidence every step of the way. She never once pushed the rhythm beyond what was comfortable, yet still stopped the clock three seconds over the time to add 1.2 penalties to their dressage score of 29.3 for a two-phase total of 30.5 and a spot at the top of the leaderboard – a fitting birthday present for owner Sarah Ross.

It was heartbreak for dressage leaders Ros Canter and Izilot DHI – who won the CCI4*-S section here last year – when the notoriously sharp ‘Isaac’ took exception to the decorative ice creams at the Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream Cones combination at fence three. The pair cleared the first fence with ease, but were caught by surprise by the wooden decorations as they made the sharp turn to the second element and suffered a run-out as Isaac spooked. Ros gathered up the 10-year-old gelding, who she co-owns with Alex Moody, and the rest of their round was without incident for an additional 16.8 time penalties – but the damage was done. They dropped out of the running to finish in eventual 26th place.

The final combination who could trouble the leaders was Jesse Campbell for New Zealand with Gambesie. Third spot after dressage on a score of 29.4 meant the Kiwi could afford to be two seconds over the time and take second place from Piggy, but no more than that. Theirs was another copybook round for any aspiring rider to watch, and their trip through the four elements of the Womble Bond Dickinson Pond was immaculate. Heading home, the pair hit the penultimate Defender Challenge with 20 seconds left on the clock – it was going to be close. Gambesie just began to tire on the final pull up to the last, but his experienced jockey didn’t unduly push and they stopped the clock five seconds over time, which resulted in two penalties to give them a final Saturday tally of 31.4, allowing them to retain their spot on the podium.

A double clear inside the time promoted Harry Meade and Alexandra Robinson and Nigella Hall’s Red Kite up the order from ninth to fourth on a score of 32.4, while a great clear in the jumping combined with just eight added seconds out on cross-country meant Harry Mutch and HD Bronze, owned by Carole Mutch, retained their fifth spot ahead of tomorrow.

Tom McEwen is in sixth with Martin Belsham’s Luna Mist on 35. Harry Meade made another significant climb up the positions with his second ride in Cavalier Crystal, owned by long-time supporter Charlotte Opperman, with a jumping clear followed by 1.2 time penalties across the country promoting them from 18th up to seventh. Impressive young rider Lizzie Baugh and the homebred sB Exclusive, who had the fantastic opportunity of being the guinea pig combination at Badminton in May, were a faultless combination today, adding nothing to a dressage score of 35.8 to rocket from 25th to lie eighth. Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy also impressed, adding just 0.8 of a cross-country time penalty to their dressage to make a 12-place march up the roster, despite losing a shoe early on. Our first out on the course, Aaron Millar and KEC Deakon, round out the top 10.

Pippa explained: “I was half hoping to have a round like that. When I took on the horse, I said that if I didn’t feel happy, I wouldn’t continue, but I’ve had a few OI runs with him that I’ve really enjoyed. I had a super ride on him today. When I saw the water, I was a bit worried – we had a good spin around Bicton, but when I watched the video back he was spectacular because he’s so bold – so I had a plan and didn’t want to wrestle with him. I’d heard Piggy went long at the [Kidney Pond] water and made the time, so I knew it was doable. I knew I was sat on a galloper, but I don’t really know him so I made that call.

“If ever I’ve had one that gives you the feel that they can run around Badminton or Burghley, he’s one, which is why I quietly took him on – but he’s a project. He’s not there yet and has a lot of maturing and strengthening to do. I was absolutely delighted with his dressage, but it is proper mind games with him – but it’s all learning. It’s quite fun to be working on that caliber of project! We’ll see what happens tomorrow!”

It’s exceptionally tight at the top, with less than a fence separating the top five, so it’s all to play for tomorrow. However, that just makes for an exciting finale to Bramham 2023 – watch this space!

Bubby extends her lead in the U25s 

In the Under-25 section, World Class Podium Potential rider Bubby Upton retained her lead in convincing style with The Zebedee Syndicate and Rachel Upton’s Magic Roundabout IV. They tackled the cross-country with great aplomb – the chestnut with a striking white blaze and socks is known as ‘Zebedee’  and certainly lives up to his springy namesake by making a great picture over the fences. Thanks to some last-minute advice from trainer Caroline Moore, their round proved to be faultless and they clicked the timing beam of at 10.10, ten seconds inside the time – the only combination to finish inside the optimum time in this section.

“He was amazing and I’m absolutely delighted with him,” said an ecstatic Bubby. “It was a big ask for him – people think he has lots of experience, but he’s only run twice since May last year because he was off after a freak accident in the field and then, after the spring we’ve had, he’s really lacked prep runs. I was confident in him, but at the same time I was a little bit uncertain how he’d cope – it’s my first Bramham and his first Bramham. He was phenomenal, he ate up the track and made it feel a lot of fun.

“He made it feel so smooth, I had to keep putting a check on myself – he just kept responding and there wasn’t a single moment he gave me anything to worry about. He did everything I asked and was full of running,” she finished.

Second place is now held by Tom Bird with Rebel Rhyme, owned by the rider and David Kerry. The duo lay seventh after dressage, but put up a bold cross-country performance, with the grey horse looking really at home over the Bramham terrain. They finished just two seconds over the optimum to add 0.8 to their dressage of 39.0.

Sasha Hargreaves now also features on the podium with her own and Billy and Alison Hargreaves’ Woodlands Be Daring, thanks to a coveted clear round with 10.8 time penalties to finish the first two phases on a total of 45.0.

Felicity Collins is in fourth with Vicky Collins and Avrina Milton’s Shadow Minnie Moon on 50.2, while Max Warburton and Rosemary Butler’s Monbeg Exclusive lie fifth after activating the pin at fence eight and clocking up 10.8 time penalties.

Providing the final horse inspection is successfully navigated, Bubby and Zebedee take a 13.3 penalty advantage into the final phase, but there’s no doubt that the six riders behind them will be determined to push all the way with the U25 title at stake.

There have been some changes to the Sunday timetable:

9:00–10:00 – Horse Inspection for both CCI4*-L sections
11.00 – U25 CCI4*-L showjumping
11.30 – U25 CCI4*-L prize-giving
12.15 – CCI4*-L showjumping
13.45 – CCI4*-L prize-giving
14.45 – Parade of hounds
15.45 – Wetherby Skips Grand Prix jumping

For full results and running order for Sunday, please visit Times & Results | Bramham ( 

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