Irish head to Lyon seeking more success

Irish riders netted three-star Grand Prix victories on both sides of the Atlantic at the weekend, with Paul O’Shea scoring in Tryon, North Carolina, and Darragh Kenny coming out on top at Montpellier in France.

O’Shea, who has been based in the US for a number of years, rode the Irish-bred Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu to claim the $130,000 (€111,600) American event. The pairing, who have been knocking on the door throughout the autumn season at the North Carolina venue, landed the closing grand prix after taking an early lead in the jump-off, with the eight following combinations falling shy of the target.

At Montpellier, Kenny, on board Go Easy de Muse, also proved uncatchable, posting the first jump-off clear and holding onto top spot with almost a second to spare.

He brings the winner to Lyon, France, this week for the fourth round of the FEI World Cup series. Also there will be Bertram Allen, Paul Kennedy, Dermott Lennon, and Mark McAuley.

A new feature of the World Cup series this year is the FEI ponies competition, introduced by the world governing body to provide a showcase for young riders. The Irish stamped their class all over last week’s round in Verona, Italy, taking first place via Abbie Sweetnam and Dynamite Spartacus, as well as third (Seamus Hughes-Kennedy on Cuffesgrange Cavalidam) and fourth (Charlotte Houston on Lea du Genier), and they will compete again at the Lyon meeting.

The French eventing showpiece at Pau provided plenty of drama on and off the course. German favourite Michael Jung’s bid to claim the number one position in the world rankings for the third successive year was interrupted when he withdrew his mount La Biosthetique Sam FBW from the event just before his scheduled start. Luckily for him, none of his rivals for top spot in the rankings took advantage of his absence.

As usual, the cross-country phase caused the most upheaval, with Ireland’s Jonty Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and Aoife Clark (Fernhill Adventure) both exiting the competition, having been in the top 20 after dressage. Young rider Tony Kennedy flew up the standings from 56th to 14th after coming home clear with just 2.8 time penalties on Westeria Lane. The pairing subsequently had 16 faults in the show jumping phase, but still finished best of the Irish in 18th, two notches off the place money.

The great American combination of Boyd Martin and 14 year-old Crackerjack came to a tragic end at the event. The pairing were almost home in the cross-country when the horse took an awkward step, resulting in multiple pastern fractures. Following the advice of veterinarians at the nearby racetrack hospital, Martin and owner Lucy Boynton made the decision to have the horse put to sleep.

There was a happier ending to the three-year partnership of US rider McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z at Washington International Horse Show last Friday night. The pairing won the $50,000 (€42,900) International Jumper Speed Final in their last appearance together. “He’s given more than he had to give,” said Ward. “I wanted the horse to win a good class to finish on. I didn’t want him to end poorly. This is a nice moment.”

Riders from the horse racing code are gearing up for a mid-December show jumping clash at London Olympia. Top names from racing’s recent history will contest the Markel Champions Challenge, an event in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund. Tony McCoy will lead the jump jockeys, while Frankie Dettori takes charge of the flat specialists. Charlie Swan, Richard Dunwoody, Peter Scudamore, and John Francome are on McCoy’s team, while Dettori will lead Ryan Moore, Richard Hughes, Jamie Spencer, and Jim Crowley. “We will be looking to set the pace against McCoy and his golden oldies,” said Hughes, knowing the Flat jockeys came out on top last year.

McCoy doesn’t want a repeat, however, and already he has had his team together for a training session.

“Last year, I had to watch the Flat jockeys win, so I decided to come back with the best possible team behind me and take back the crown for the jump jockeys,” he said.



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