It seems New Zealand eventers aren’t the only ones stealing the limelight at top level.
While the riders weren’t on the podium at the recent Chedington Bicton Park CCI5* International Horse Trials, the grooms were. Frankie Murrell won the best turned out at the first horse inspection with Mr Sneezy with Jess Wilson winning the Repost Groom’s Award for the groom who gave the best care to their horse over the event.
Frankie has been with James Avery for just over a year now and was previously head girl for Pippa Funnell before having her daughter. While it is not the first turn out prize Frankie has won, it is her first at 5* level. “I was really surprised,” said Frankie. “I had just said to James before the trot up I thought I was past it, so to hear I had won was so lovely and makes you realise you still have it.”
She adores working with Mr Sneezy who she says is one of the kindest horses she has dealt with. “A big thanks to James for strutting so well! It is so amazing to be back in the 5* environment after COVID and going into retirement after having my daughter. It is things like this that make it all that extra bit worth it.”
James has plenty of good things to say about Frankie. “Frankie has been with me since my move to Yorkshire and is an absolute grafter. The care and attention to detail she has with my horses is of the highest standard and she thoroughly deserves the prize for the best turned out horse. It is great to see her hard work and standards rewarded and appreciated as the best in the business.”
He said he had been incredibly lucky over the past six years since setting up on my own with some fantastic head boys and girls working for him.
It is Jess’ first-ever award in 10 years of grooming. “It is very special to win at Bicton which is likely my last 5* as I am retiring in two weeks to go to vet school,” says Jess, who has also previously volunteered for vet charities in Egypt, helping to look after abused carriage horses there.
“It was a real privilege to look after Ozzie (Ringwood Sy Boy) as he is such a legend and having him in such great shape is a real testament to everyone at Team Price and particularly to Tim’s management.” Jess was quick to share the credit, saying “as always” the New Zealand horse health team had been a massive support throughout the week. “They contributed to having a happy, healthy horse for the competition.”
Jess was with Sir Mark Todd and literally followed her favourite McClaren to Team Price two years ago. “I have long admired Tim and Oz’s partnership from a distance.”
It seems the feeling is mutual with Tim saying Jess is a “fantastic groom”
“She is very driven and determined,” he says. “She is worth every bit of her salt. She is very passionate about her horses. Her super favourite is McClaren, who is owned by David and Karry Thomson who are big fans of Jess as well. They almost said that Jonelle could have McClaren as long as Jess came too! She has been great and we wish her well with her onward journey – she thoroughly deserves this accolade.”
The success of the two grooms follows on from Hannah McLean taking the best turned out horse with Diachello at the Kentucky CCI5* in the United States earlier this year.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ