Michael Ryan scored what he described as “probably the biggest win of my career; definitely, one of the nicest ones”, when taking the plaudits in the CCI three-star contest at Millstreet International Horse Trials yesterday.
The Bandon, Co Cork-based Limerickman produced a cool-headed display with Dunlough Striker in yesterday’s show jumping to seal victory, as overnight leader Aoife Clark and Pink Gin ran out of fizz having led from the outset.
Ryan felt Tom and Carol Henry’s 11-year-old gelding was due a win, having placed third in a similar class last year in Ballindenisk, Co Cork.
“He’s a proper four-star horse, but he’s taken a little time to produce. He excelled in dressage, galloped in the cross-country and jumped superbly in the show jumping. There’s a bit more to come if we are to take on the best in the world, but today’s a nice step in the right direction,” said Ryan.
“It was also great for owners Tom and Carol Henry. They have been my backers for a long time and have invested so much in the sport, so it’s great to see them get their due reward.”
The CCI three-star class was a step up for Millstreet as it builds towards next year’s European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders and Ryan felt the Mike Etherington-Smith-designed track for Saturday’s cross-country, set in the magnificent grounds of Drishane Castle, was a true test.
“It surprised me. Being the first CCI three-star, I thought it would be a nice introduction, but Mike did not hold back. It was big, a true three-star, but fair. It sets my horse up nicely for the next step. I don’t know what the that is yet, but Badminton would be one to consider.”
Lying sixth after dressage on 54.30 penalties, Ryan cruised around Saturday’s impressive cross-country track, with just 0.40 time penalties. It saw him rise to second place going into yesterday’s deciding show jumping phase.
Overnight, third-placed Austin O’Connor kept the pressure up when clear on Kilpatrick Knight, the Corkman finishing on 61pens. While Ryan had a fence to spare, he did not need it, as Dunlough Striker left them all upright.
It meant overnight leader Aoife Clark had no room for error on Pink Gin, a new ride for the Kildare rider. Unfortunately, errors she had, as the 15-year-old chestnut gelding accumulated 16 faults to see Clark tumble down to seventh place. Cathal Daniels picked up four faults in the show jumping with Rioghan Rua, leaving him in third place a mere 0.30pens adrift of O’Connor, as Ireland completed a clean sweep.
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