Ennis sets bar higher despite leading rivals in Ballindenisk

A sun-drenched day in Ballindenisk, Co Cork that fell into the halcyon category, yet Sarah Ennis was “not happy”.

The Meath rider had just completed her dressage on BLM Diamond Delux in the CCI three-star at the Johnson & Perrott Land Rover International Horse Trials and, while those outside the arena, including Ireland manager Ginny Elliot, were voicing their approval of her performance, Ennis was of a different mind.

“I didn’t think it was as good as what it could have been,” she opined. “We were in Blenheim last weekend and he was much better, we got 49 penalties.”

Minutes after her comment, her score showed she was being hard on herself, very hard, 45.2 penalties giving her a five-point lead on Belgium’s Constantin van Rijckevorsel and Goodwins Relief, with Tipperary’s Katie O’Sullivan and Lowhill Blackout marked down for 52pens to place provisional third of the 12 competitors.

Ennis ultimately finished 15th in Blenheim last weekend with Delux — “it was a hot class” — having rode the Olympic Lux-sired gelding to second place last month at Camphire, Co Waterford.

Considering, however, that she is making her first foray at long-format level with the horse — and over a course considered tough — she could be forgiven for her reluctance to make a prediction for this weekend.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on him. He’s only nine and I will be trying to have fun,” she said, though she added that “while he lacks mileage, he’s answered all the questions so far.

“I dearly love him. He’s been super so far, let’s hope it keeps going”.

Local rider Patricia Ryan won last week in Carlow with Tullineaskey Hi Ho, and lines out in the short-format three-star CIC, which boasts the €50,000 Goresbridge Go For Gold bonus prize if the winning horse/rider combination goes on to win next year’s long-format contest.

Preferring to do her talking in the arena, she too was reluctant to indulge in crystal ball gazing.

“I’ve only had him a year and we are still bonding. I’ve been working on his dressage and he did a good test in a World Cup qualifier in France recently, 54 penalties.

“I also did the dressage in Blenheim and he’s improving, it’s just a matter of establishing him,” said the Bandon rider, who undertakes her test this morning.

“He’s a horse with a future and we will do Badminton next spring, which will go a long way to determining what kind of future that will be.”

While Zara Phillips and William Fox-Pitt opted out of Ballindenisk, the British flag was being flown by Ollie Townend, whose 40.2 penalties with Imperial Master put him at the top of the leaderboard in the CIC three-star.

Katie O’Sullivan’s dressage skills again ensured she was prominent, leaving her in second place with Kilpatrick Dancer, 4.5pens adrift of Townend, while Armagh eventer Steven Smith (Fernando) and Briton Natasha Halliday (Viva La Diva II), shared third place overnight on 48.9pens.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that Patricia Ryan’s husband Michael has pulled out of the CIC three-star. It is believed, his ride, Dromgurrihy Blue, is on the way to world number one Fox-Pitt. Michael said he’d “prefer not to comment”.

Dressage continues today at Ballindenisk, followed by the cross-country tomorrow. The show jumping phase will decide the winner on Sunday, when the focus outside the arena will be on family fun, including an 8km “rage run” over the cross-country... for humans.

lMichael Duffy, from an early age, envisioned greatness, or, at least he had the confidence to declare at the age of 10 that he was going to win an Olympic gold medal.

Seven years later in Ennis, Co Clare, and he’s on the right road, becoming the youngest ever national champion last Sunday.

The Claregalway teen and Killard Horizon, owned by his mother Kathryn, won the opening qualifier and finished fourth in Saturday’s second contest. This put him behind Dermott Lennon, but the former world champion faulted with Hallmark Elite in the final and, when Duffy, produced a clear, the title was his.

Waterford’s Tholm Keane claimed the Dubai Duty Free Grand Prix with Ronan Tynan’s Warrenstown You 2, and the TRM/SJI Premier Series leader will be aiming to continue his good form in this weekend’s final at Barnadown.

Greg Broderick was crowned the 2012 National Speed Champion with the Caledonia Stables owned Mrs Quinn, while Kildare’s Avril Perrin successfully defended her National Ladies Championship title. Local rider Kate Costello was the leading lady rider at the show.

* Jonathan McCrea pocketed a cool $120,000 when third in the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at Saugerties, New York, last Sunday.

Riding Colorado, he was one of three in the jump-off, but eight faults saw him finish behind Jill Henselwood, who four-faulted with George, while a clear for McLain Ward on Antares F gave him his second win the contest in three years, earning him $350,000.

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