British Olympic contender wins at Bramham – and proves her new cross-country bit works

  • Kitty King topped the Defender Bramham Horse Trials results for the CCI4*-S this afternoon on her Paris Olympic long-listed ride Vendredi Biats. The Brit brought Diana Bown, Samantha Wilson, Sally Lloyd-Baker and John Eyre’s grey home four seconds inside the optimum time across country to finish on her fifth-placed dressage score of 25.2.

    Most importantly, Kitty proved to Olympic selectors she has found a suitable new bit – a Swales Pelham – for the European individual silver medallist to run in across country. “Froggy” has previously worn a Myler combination, so Kitty had to seek a novel solution after riders started to run up against problems this spring when using that bit, with confusion over whether it is allowed under FEI rules.

    “I can’t thank the two ladies in Neue Schule stand at Badminton Horse Trials enough – I went to them and said, ‘I need a new cross-country bit, he’s gone in the same thing for seven years, gags split his mouth, anything with a joint splits his mouth and I don’t know what to do’,” said Kitty King after heading the Bramham Horse Trials results in this Defender CCI4*-S today.

    “They were really helpful – they got bits sent down while they were at Badminton, I kind of played about and spoke with them over Badminton and they actually popped into my yard on their way home to have a look at his mouth conformation.

    “He was a good boy today. It just took a few minutes to get used to how much I needed to take a balance or not, just getting the controls working again. It worked, but it was a different feel so it’s both of us just getting used to how much leg and how much hand and how to ride him again. He also pulled both front shoes off, which wasn’t ideal.”

    Froggy missed Bicton Horse Trials due to having pus in the foot so today was Kitty’s last chance to show the British selectors her form.

    “There was quite a lot of pressure riding on a good result, so I just said, ‘I’m going to have to go out and try and make it happen’. He went and did his bit and he is just such consistent horse. The week’s improved – my dog was put down on Monday, then a family member has not been very well at all, but then I won some premium bonds on Wednesday, so I was hoping that was the turn of a better week and Froggy’s finished it really well.”

    Kitty King was also pleased with Cristal Fontaine, sixth in the Bramham Horse Trials results, adding: “It was great to have a spin around on him first and get a feel for the track – that helped me know where I could move and save a bit of time. ‘Louis’ was much improved from Bicton – he’d really come on.”

    ‘I can’t wait for the Olympics now’

    Austin O’Connor surely secured his Olympic place for Ireland when he finished second on his dressage score of 26.4 with The Salty Syndicate’s Maryland 5 Star winner Colorado Blue, despite not wearing a watch across country.

    “It was great preparation personally and for the entire squad really,” he said. “I made the decision to be competitive here because if you’re going to Olympics, you want to think you’re in a competitive frame of mind. Hopefully it will set us up well and I can’t wait for it to happen now.

    “I probably didn’t have my ideal ride today. I think I put myself under a bit more pressure than was necessary – I’m sort of a results person otherwise I kind of float half asleep. But he was very professional and did his job.”

    Dressage leader Ros Canter showjumped clear on the Olympic long-listed Lordships Graffalo and put in a secure but steady cross-country round for 15.2 time-faults. British fans will hope she has bigger fish to fry in Paris in seven weeks’ time.

    China’s Alex Hua Tian, second after dressage on potential Paris ride Jilsonne Van Bareelhof, similarly opted for a slower cross-country performance after showjumping clear and finished with 23.2 time-penalties.

    Kazuma Tomoto, third after dressage, went quicker, racking up 6.8 time-faults to hold his dressage placing on Vinci De La Vigne JRA. This pair were fourth for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics and they were under particular pressure at Bramham as they needed to achieve their final qualification for Paris, a box they have now ticked.

    “It’s a big relief as the Japanese federation deadline is this weekend so if I didn’t qualify this time I couldn’t go to Paris,” said Kazuma, who is based with William Fox-Pitt.

    “I fell off last time out at Bicton and then I was worried about Vinci’s condition but William said, ‘No, he’ll be fine, carry on’ and he was right. Vinci is an absolute professional, he knows everything, what he needs to do, what I want him to do and he surely understood how important today was.”

    Influential fences

    The hollow-style fences on Ian Stark’s Bramham tracks are known for causing problems and the one at fence 11abcd on the CCI4*-S course was no exception. It consisted of a rail in, down a bank to a ditch, then up to a triple brush arrowhead and then a left turn and five strides to a further triple brush arrowhead. Those who failed to break up the rhythm and get their horse back before jumping in generally ran into trouble.

    Among the many who faulted here were Ireland’s Felicity Ward, who fell off Regal Bounty when he stopped at the rail in, and Dutch riders Jordy Wilken (who had a fall from Curacao) and Maartje van Riegl, who had a run-out at the c element and was eliminated further round with Eppo.

    The Equi-Trek Spinney (fence 8abc) – a narrow box brush, a curving line to a left-handed corner, and then a further curve to another skinny box brush, with striding options available – was also influential.

    Ibble Watson had a flag penalty at the c element here when her 2022 young rider team gold medallist Aristoteles SZ jumped the corner big and then bulged out in the turn. She also had a surprising stop at the final fence, the Bishop Burton College Finale (fence 20).

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