The TRM/Horseware Premier Series went down to the wire yesterday, with the last round deciding the title and Paddy O’Donnell proving a worthy champion.
The Waterford show jumper was among nine to make the jump-off in the €10,000 final at Coilog Equestrian Centre, Co Kildare, and garnered the last-to-go position by virtue of being fastest in the opening round with Harristown Princess.
Firstly, though, he had to see what Peter Smyth could do against the clock. Leading the series since May, the Strabane rider was third last to enter the arena and bidding to avoid a repeat of 2011, when he was overtaken on the final day. This time, his clear in 45.09secs with Victoria Rose meant he would not be giving up without a fight.
Ominously, though, Greg Broderick and Rincarina were next in and showed the time could be bettered, when clear in 43.98secs.
O’Donnell was four points behind Smyth on the series leaderboard ahead of yesterday’s final, but was bold on Thursday when predicting good things of his mare — "I think she can do it, to be quite frank" — and he proved these were not idle words, when crossing the finish line clear in 42.39secs to take the crown. For good measure, the win also earned him the right to be called national champion, as the championships did not run this year.
At the European Championships in Herning, Denmark, two of Ireland’s show jumpers were among the 25 contesting Saturday’s individual medal decider, with Co Down’s Conor Swail (Lansdowne) placing 18th, one better than Tipperary’s Shane Breen (Balloon).
An Irish interest was provided by the winning horse, Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois, owned by Longford woman Lady Georgina Forbes. The 13-year-old mare was ridden to gold by Frenchman Roger Yves Bost, who overtook overnight leader Britain’s Ben Maher (Cella) after he had a fence down in Saturday’s opening round. Maher’s compatriot Scott Brash rose from overnight tenth place to take bronze with Hello Sanctos after producing the only double-clear of the day.
The popular ‘Bosty’ heaped praise on his mount, who he calls "my Princess" or "my Poupee" (my doll) .
"There are days like this in which nothing bad can happen and everything goes just right" he said, "but this was really Myrtille’s day. I took the week class-by-class, course-by-course without watching what the other riders were doing. I really tried to do my best. I have been riding Myrtille now for two years and it hasn’t always been easy. This arena suited her, because it is like an indoor arena, so she was more focussed and concentrated on what she was doing. The first thing I thought when we crossed the finish line today was how much I love my princess," said the 47-year-old.
In para dressage, Helen Kearney was pipped for a medal at the championships by just over three percentage points when again fourth in yesterday’s freestyle final.
It was a repeat of last Thursday’s performance that saw the Wicklow-based Dubliner and the 14-year-old Mister Cool also just miss out on a medal in the Grade 1a championship class.
Yesterday, Kearney, who won bronze at the 2011 European Championships, as well as three medals at last year’s London Paralympics, scored 72.800, with third place going to Italy’s Sara Morganti (Royal Delight) on a percentage score of 76.100. Gold and silver went to British riders, Sophie Christiansen (Janeiro 6), and Anne Dunham (LJT Lucas Normark), respectively.