Irish stars take fight to Bordeaux

Bertram Allen returns to the scene of a memorable victory this weekend as he lines out in Bordeaux at the final showjumping qualifier in the European division of the 2018/2019 FEI World Cup series.

Irish stars take fight to Bordeaux

Bertram Allen returns to the scene of a memorable victory this weekend as he lines out in Bordeaux at the final showjumping qualifier in the European division of the 2018/2019 FEI World Cup series.

Allen won this round of the World Cup on his now-retired stallion Romanov back in 2015 and went on to finish fourth in the final in Las Vegas, where he rode Molly Malone.

For this year’s meeting, he brings Molly Malone, Izzy By Picobello, and Christy Jr. Also at the French venue will be Denis Lynch with Chablis and Dito, and Mark McAuley with Jasco vd Bisschop and Jacinta vh Kriekenhof.

Allen and Lynch both have a chance of making the final but would need to be within the top five at this round to be in contention. The competition is going to be tough, with a number of riders who have already qualified for the April final in Gothenburg not backing off from this final leg.

“There would have to be a lot of unexpected circumstances to stop me coming,” said Swiss rider Steve Guerdat.

“The fact that I already have my qualification for the final will not stop me, either. This competition is one of those I want to enter each year.”

Germany’s Daniel Deusser is another who is booked for April but will compete in Bordeaux. His experienced compatriots Ludger Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning will need to clinch their tickets in this round.

An American round of the World Cup took place at Deeridge Farm in Wellington, Florida on Sunday night, which saw Conor Swail finish fourth with GK Coco Chanel. The Co Down rider had the task of being first to go in the nine-way jump-off and though going clear again his effort was bettered on the clock by three of those following, with victory going to American Alex Granato and Carlchen W.

Cormac Hanley added nine points to his tally with an eighth-place finish after four jump-off faults with VDL Cartello.

Swail and Hanley — along with Shane Sweetnam, whose four-fault first round on Indra van de Oude Heihoef on Sunday scraped him a couple of points — are not out of contention for a place in Gothenburg, with one round of this division to come in March.

Overall, Deeridge was a good meeting for Swail, who took second in Saturday’s NetJets Classic with Rubens LS la Silla. “I was delighted with how he went,” said Swail, who was having his first run of the year with Rubens.

Irish loyalties were divided between the Deeridge meeting and the fourth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), both held in Wellington, but the latter takes centre stage this week as the WEF goes up to five-star level with a host of lucrative contests, including Saturday’s Fidelity Investments Grand Prix worth $391,000 (€341,000).

At home, Millstreet’s 2019 calendar was boosted in the past week with the announcement that its August eventing fixture has been made part of this year’s Event Riders Masters (ERM) series.

The Cork venue will host the penultimate leg before the finale in France in October. The ERM is run over a total of six fixtures for 2019 and Millstreet’s Thomas Duggan said he was “absolutely thrilled” that the venue had become part of the series.

“The team in Millstreet is looking forward to welcoming the world’s greatest event riders,” Duggan said.

The Event Riders Masters is now in its fourth year and each ERM round in 2019 will feature 30 riders, 26 of whom will be chosen from the world ranking order with four wildcards. That would mean automatic invites for Ireland’s Sam Watson, Cathal Daniels, and Padraig McCarthy based on current standings, with all three inside the top 20.

The Event Riders Masters series offers a high level of prize money in a sphere of equestrian sport that doesn’t have too many big purses up for grabs. This year’s ERM carries a total prize fund of €400,000.

The first round will take place in the UK at Chatsworth in May and contests follow in Germany, Belgium and France before the Irish round on August 24 and 25, coinciding with Millstreet’s International Horse Trials fixture which begins on August 21.

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