Irish show jumpers going for glory under a New York sky

The Manhattan skyline provides the backdrop to this week’s showpiece event on the North American circuit as the fourth staging of the the Rolex Central Park Horse Show gets underway at the Wollman Rink today.

Shane Sweetnam, Richie Moloney, Darragh Kerins, Paul O’Shea and Brian Cournane provide the Irish show jumping interest. Top US riders Kent Farrington, who is currently ranked number one in the world, and McLain Ward, ranked number three, are among those who will be aiming to keep the prize money in American hands.

“It’s an unbelievable experience right there under the skyline,” says Sweetnam, who has competed at the event every year since its inception. “It’s one of a kind.”

Sweetnam will be taking a shot at Friday’s Grand Prix and will bring out Indra van de Oude Heihoef for tomorrow’s qualifying round.

“Obviously it’s a small arena so you need a certain type of horse for it. It’s like an indoor arena. The horses that jump there are normally used to jumping indoors in the World Cup qualifiers. You need that kind of horse to be competitive there.”

Sweetnam and Indra won last Saturday’s Fidelity Investments Classic at the American Gold Cup meeting at North Salem, north of New York City.

His European Championship gold medal-winning mount Chaqui Z has meanwhile been in transit back to Europe where the Cork rider will resume their partnership on the Irish team at next week’s Nations Cup Final in Barcelona.

Apart from Thursday’s Grand Prix qualifying round, there will also be a Puissance competition that evening. Such events are not featured at every show jumping meeting, but where they are, they provide huge spectator interest, as evidenced at Dublin Horse Show annually.

“It’s one of my favourite classes and I wish they had it at more horse shows,” said last year’s joint-winner Andrew Kocher whose mare C’Havinia tied with compatriot McLain Ward’s mount ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z when the Puissance was first staged in Central Park at last year’s show.

For the first time since it started in 2014, the show includes Arena Eventing, a compact version of three-day eventing which will be part of Saturday’s schedule. There are no Irish involved in this event but British riders Oliver Townend and William Fox Pitt will compete as a two-man team against two Australian, two Canadian and six American pairings over a show jumping course followed by a cross-country counterpart designed by Capt. Mark Phillips.

“It’s great PR for equestrian sport all across the board,” Sweetnam says. “Every day there’s something different. They are really trying to give New York and America a good look at what the equestrian sector is in America.”

Plans to include a CDI Dressage class had to be postponed, however, due to some top riders being unable to travel.

Irish eventers will be in action at home where Ballindenisk stages more international action, beginning with dressage over tomorrow and Friday.

Rome is set to host the latest Global Champions Tour round, the second-last in this year’s 15-leg series, which also incorporates the Global Champions League team competition. Cian O’Connor, Denis Lynch and Darragh Kenny are due at the Italian venue. Both Lynch and O’Connor are members of the Miami Glory outfit who lie in fifth place in the 18-team league, while Kenny’s Paris Panthers team are in tenth place.

Last year’s winners Valkenswaard United are second, behind Hamburg Diamonds, and will be bidding to climb back to the top of the standings ahead of the final round in Doha, Qatar in November. Bertram Allen, who has been a member of the Valkenswaard squad since the League made its debut last year, is not due to compete in this round.

John Floody and Bronson De Reve won the opening round of the Allianz Autumn Grand Prix league at Cavan Equestrian Centre on Sunday evening. Max O’Reilly Hyland and Dorado took second with third going to Damien Griffin on Tabby. “Bronson has done well in Cavan - he seems to like it here,” Floody commented. “He’s been a very successful horse for me. He jumped absolutely super - very quick against the clock.”

The National Grand Prix Final takes place this Sunday at Cork’s Maryville Stables, Carrigaline.


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