Kelly in confident mood ahead of Grand Prix

Athletes learn through experience that the word ‘certainty’ is best avoided when considering the future, and none more so than show jumpers, given the nature of their partnership.

That didn’t stop Capt Michael Kelly being confident ahead of tomorrow’s Millstreet Grand Prix. It wasn’t surprising, perhaps, considering he and Ringwood Glen produced one of only four clean sheets in the first of the international classes yesterday, a competition that separated the cream of the 63 starters.

The Longford rider said the nine-year-old gelding was a precocious talent and more than willing to demonstrate it.

“We bought the horse as a three-year-old from Peter Leonard. He was bred by Ray O’Reilly from Co Cavan and he’s by Arkansas out of a Kilglass Penistone mother.

“All along his career we felt we had something a bit special. We don’t usually buy too many horses as three-year-olds off the lunge and this fella was unbroken at the time, but we just knew straight away he was a special talent. Luckily, in the past six to nine months everything is coming together with him.

“He’s a little bit difficult in his own head, where he’s a bit afraid of horses, but he’s ultra careful, an extremely brave horse and, with a bit of mileage, he’ll be very special.”

Capt Kelly ultimately placed fourth, with Bertram Allen victorious and, while the Wexford 18-year-old is making a habit of beating his more-experienced rivals, his comments on Thursday would have indicated no continuation of this trend. “I don’t think we’ll be doing much damage this week,” he said.

But damage he did, on Molly Malone, with Ellen Whitaker (Zanzibar) the only rider to come close, finishing a third of a second adrift, followed over two seconds back by fellow Briton Stephen Crosby (Aramis van Halbeek).

Britain’s Guy Williams scored a hat-trick last year in Millstreet and reached the double mark yesterday in the second international of the day. Again, it was the Belgian-bred Belinka VH Overlede Goed that put him tops, ahead of his compatriot Danielle Jolliffe (Explosief VD Heffinck), with Ireland’s Damien Griffin and the Captain Clover mare Tabby third home.

Meanwhile, Capt Kelly believes Ringwood Glen is more than capable of holding his own in tomorrow’s €50,000 grand prix.

“I’ve been riding him for a little over 12 months, since Capt David O’Brien retired. I’ve campaigned him slowly. I had him in Vejer de la Frontera in Spain earlier this year and he jumped a three-star grand prix for one fence down and I had him in Lisbon. I was going to bring him to Dublin Show, but I thought Millstreet would be better for his career development.

“I need a bit of luck in the grand prix, like every other rider. I’m very confident he will jump a clear round and if he jumps a double clear he won’t be too far away from a top three placing and at this stage of his career I would be extremely happy with that.”

The atmosphere in Millstreet was rising to the occasion yesterday, but expect an extra injection today with the Speed Derby, which is preceded by the Millstreet Masters.

Fans will have top-class fare to savour tomorrow, the 148cms ponies grand prix getting the action underway in the main arena, followed by the Millstreet Ruby Grand Final for five-year-old horses. These whet the appetite for the Boomerang Grand Final, followed at 3pm by the Millstreet Grand Prix, which also forms the finale of the Connolly’s Red Mills GBI Tour.

Indoors tonight, the feature is the National Discovery Horse Final for four-year-olds.

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