Leading Irish eventers Padraig McCarthy and Cathal Daniels are among the riders heading to Switzerland for this week’s CHI Geneva five-star fixture. Show jumpers Darragh Kenny, Mikey Pender, and Mark McAuley will also be present hoping to boost their bank balances at what is one of the most prestigious fixtures on the calendar.
McCarthy, who is a team and individual world silver-medalist, will partner Rosemaber Lancuest, while Daniels, who was also a member of the Irish world silver medal-winning team and is the current European individual bronze-medalist, brings Alcatraz to the Swiss venue.
The two Irish eventers will be competing in the indoor cross-country class on Friday afternoon. McCarthy won it last year with the same mount, becoming the first Irish winner of the competition when he pipped Britain’s Alex Bragg, who on that occasion was competing with Alcatraz. This time the British rider pins his hopes on Hester.
For the show jumping events, Darragh Kenny is the only Irish rider involved in Friday’s Rolex Top Ten clash, limited as it is to the top 10 riders in the world. Kenny retained his place at number eight in the latest rankings released last week.
The Offaly rider has been relentlessly at the business end of the big events, putting in another sterling effort last Sunday when placing fourth in the Longines Masters Grand Prix in Paris with Classic Dream, two days after helping Team Europe to win the Riders Masters Cup by 125 to 80 against Team Americas, for whom former Irish manager Rodrigo Pessoa turned out to be a star performer.
Kenny has Balou Du Reventon on hand for the Geneva meeting — probably his top horse, but it’s getting hard to know just which of his rides he’s going to score with next. He also has Go Easy de Muze and Romeo 88 this time around.
It was with Balou that he almost scooped the Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in Prague three weeks back, leading until Britain’s Ben Maher and Explosion W snatched it with the last round. Maher has his top mount for this fixture as well, so another big duel is on the cards, with the whole field of 10 sure to make the event live up to its billing.
Only one Irish rider has won the Rolex Top Ten, Billy Twomey riding Tinka’s Serenade to victory in 2011.
McAuley and Pender will join Kenny for the other Geneva classes, with the Rolex Grand Prix taking place on Sunday. Also representing Irish interest will be Harry Allen and Kate Derwin, targeting the U25 events with Dancing Queen Z and Deep Pockets respectively.
Another five-star fixture takes place at La Coruna in Spain this weekend with a good presence of Irish riders. Greg Broderick, back from a spell in the US, is joined by Michael Duffy, Michael G. Duffy, Denis Lynch, and Billy Twomey. Last Sunday saw Cian O’Connor net the two-star Grand Prix at Opglabbeek in Belgium with Lazzaro Delle Schiave.
Overall it was a strong finish by the Irish riders present, with Mikey Pender finishing fourth on HHS Calais while Jenny Rankin completed the Irish haul with fifth on Quentin.
In Austria, Shane Breen had two runner-up finishes in the four-star meeting in Salzburg, one with Compelling Z in Saturday’s 1.55m class and the other earlier the same day with Evita in the 1.50m.
At the same meeting dressage rider Anna Merveldt continued her comeback from injury and made her first dent in the 2019/2020 FEI Dressage World Cup points table when taking 10th in the Freestyle on Sunday. Merveldt scored 73.310% with her Olympic-qualifying team ride Esporim in the event which was won by Germany’s Isabell Werth on Emilio with 85.905%.
Merveldt said of her mount:
His excellent temperament gives me so much confidence for the future. He is only a 10-year-old and there is so much more to come.
The ban on Russian participation in world sport announced this week will, if it comes to fruition, mean the FEI will have to make a decision on replacements for the Tokyo Olympics next year. Russia had qualified a dressage team, and two of the country’s riders had gained individual places in eventing.
Belarus would be the team replacements if the FEI goes with the ‘next-in-line’ qualification process, but at this early stage there has been no indication if this will be the case should the Russian appeal against the ban be turned down. A case could be made by Ukraine, since they didn’t contest the relevant qualifier as it was staged in Moscow.
As for the Russians, they hadn’t qualified an equestrian team for the Olympics since 1992, and it now looks like their wait could stretch to over 30 years.