Ireland has won places for 13 horses and 11 riders in Badminton Horse Trials, something eventing high-performance coach Ginny Elliot yesterday described as “fantastic”.
The event is pre-eminent in terms of selection for the Olympics, being a four-star category, followed by Tattersalls, and will be crucial for riders aiming to cement a place in the London squad
While Elliot was delighted with winning places for at least 11 riders — and probably a 12th — she feels a greater indicator of the improvements made in the sport here over the past few years is that Ireland sought slots for 21 horses.
“We applied for 21 places, which is extraordinary, as we have never had that many. To have that many applications indicates that the riders have worked hard over the last few years and brought their horses up to that level, which is admirable. That we have 13 entries, with the possibility of more is absolutely fantastic,” said Elliot.
Last year, Ireland fielded eight riders on nine horses in what amounted to a disappointing outing. Last year’s best Irishman Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise) returns this year on Electric Cruise, along with a number of others: Jayne Doherty has two horses (Ravenstar and the Only One), as does Bandon-based Michael Ryan (Old Road and Ballylynch Skyport), with one each for Aoife Clark (Vaguely North), Capt Geoff Curran (The Jump Jet), Ciaran Glynn (Killossery Kruisita), Mark Kyle (Step In Time), Jim Newsam (Magennis), Liz Power (September Bliss), Camilla Speirs (Portersize Just A Jif) and Sam Watson (Horseware Bushman). Ireland also holds top spot on the waiting list with Declan Cullen’s coloured stallion Glenhill Gold. Elliot said a solid performance at the Gloucestershire event will be crucial in making the Olympic squad.
“Horses’ and riders’ performances at Badminton present a very good chance for selection at London, Tattersalls CCI is also to be used, but Badminton is a four-star and it will be scrutinised and very influential.
“By June 17, we will know if we have three or five places in the Olympics, so that makes the selection a different process. Three amounts to a team, but I would love to take five and I am remaining positive,” said Elliot, who added that it was unlikely Luhmülen in Germany would be used as a spotter, though she could not categorically rule it out.
“I would like to say how much of an influence our two coaches, Ferdi Eilberg (dressage) and Ian Fearon (show jumping), have had and, with the support of Eventing Ireland, Irish Sport Council funding and Horse Sport Ireland’s input, I really feel Irish eventing is making progress. Owners also deserve thanks, as it is an expensive sport and the fact they have not sold their horses abroad and kept them for Irish riders is more than half the battle. We have a professional system in place and it all has helped to get the riders so far and they really deserve to do well.”
lOonagh Kennedy said she and her sister Sinead always considered KEC Alligator Alley had the potential to make it to the top.
The Tralee pair’s 10-year-old gelding was ridden to second place in the $80,000 grand prix in Florida at the weekend by Cian O’Connor.
The Meath-based rider is to target grand prix at top league nations cup shows in the summer with Alligator Alley, who was bred by Oonagh and Sinead’s brother Kieran, matching their own stallion Aldatus Z with their mare Omard Queenie, by Clover Hill.
“Cian has had him since Christmas, but Sinead jumped in the international shows in Cavan and Mullingar and he was consistent. He was also placed in the Premier League final in 2010 in Ennis,” said Oonagh yesterday.
“Florida is a big step up, but we always knew he had the potential. He was slowly produced in the background... and he missed much of last summer as Sinead hurt her back and then we had a flu in our yard.
“He did well in Cavan and, in December, he went to Ingliston, near Glasgow in Scotland and he was placed in two competitions.
“But it was decided that Cian had more access to the bigger shows and he was ready to go, so we sent the horse to Florida with him.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved