MICHAEL RYAN was yesterday named among the six eventing riders to carry Irish hopes in the Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG), which begin this month in Kentucky and he took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the Cork venue, Ballindenisk, to the sport in Ireland.
The Watergrasshill track is gearing up to stage one of only two three-day, three-star events in Ireland and the Cork-based Limerick man – who is joined on the WEG squad by his wife Patricia – said the quality of the venue and the timing of the event made it a huge benefit to Irish eventing.
“If I or Trish were not going to WEG, undoubtedly, we would be at Ballindenisk. It is an ideal opportunity for riders to upgrade their horses at the end of the season and is one of only three international events in Ireland this year.
“And from what I’ve seen of the work on the course, the competition should be up there with the best at that level. It is a big, old-fashioned galloping track and should prove a real spectacle. As much as 80% of the fences are new and anything that isn't new has been changed. It’s definitely one of their best tracks and, while it’s difficult in some places, it’s fair,” said Ryan, who has had many good times at Ballindenisk.
“I’ve been second in the World Cup there, plus I’ve won a two-star and a one-star class, along with a lot of wins in national classes, so it’s proved a good hunting ground for me,” he said.
The Ballindenisk International Horse Trials are staged by the Fell family, who see it as another opportunity to restore the reputation of what is considered by many as the home of eventing in this country. The venue had attained World Cup status, but was stripped of the competition, when, in 2007, just nine of the 32 starters set out on the cross-country, amid fears of the going being too firm.
The Fells held their hands up, and immediately began the task of proving that Ballindenisk was still capable of bringing high-class eventing to Cork.
Ironically, however, the family are only staging the event after claiming the dates held by Necarne, which opted out as a result of financial difficulties. As such, Peter Fell said they are grabbing the opportunity with both hands, investing a lot of money and working night and day to ensure a landmark event.
“We’ve done an awful lot since 2007 and gained a lot of respect from riders. But this is only one big step for us; we are looking to the long-term. While there are plenty of three-star events across Europe of greater stature, we are well established, have a lot of experience and have learned from out mistakes. We have big plans and want our event to be comparable with anything in Europe,” said Peter, who expects up to 150 horses at the event.
Ballindenisk runs for four days, starting on Thursday September 16. The 250-acre course will be open to the public from Wednesday, with competition beginning with dressage on Thursday and Friday, followed by cross-country on Saturday and concluding with the show jumping phase on Sunday. The final day will also be geared towards family fun, with pony rides, Pony Club games, and a dog show among the attractions.
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