Irish in Champions League hunt

After a sparkling weekend of show jumping on the French Riviera, the Global Champions Tour (GCT) moves to the Atlantic coast this weekend when Cascais hosts the eighth of the championship’s 15 legs.

Like the past round in Cannes, Ireland will be well represented at the Portuguese venue.

Six of the 19 teams who compete in the team element of the GCT — the Global Champions League — now feature Irish riders in their squads and they are having no small effect on the standings. Of the top four in the table to date, the teams in second, third, and fourth positions have Irish rider-power.

Bertram Allen competes for Valkenswaard United who stand second, Shane Sweetnam’s Shanghai Swans are in third, and Miami Celtics, whose five-member squad includes Denis Lynch, Michael Duffy, Cameron Hanley, and Shane Breen as well as American Jessica Springsteen, have moved up to fourth after a runner-up finish in Cannes.

That latest meeting saw a couple of notable contributions from the Irish, with perhaps the best overall performance coming from Cameron Hanley and Quirex.

The team competition has two rounds at each venue. The first had taken place on Thursday and Hanley was joined by Springsteen (RMF Swinny du Parc) to go into battle for the Miami Celtics team.

Both managed clears to leave Miami tied with Prague Lions ahead of Saturday’s concluding bout. Springsteen this time had eight faults, but Hanley went clear again to give the team a second-place finish behind Valkenswaard United who also finished on eight faults but with a faster combined time.

That team contest doubled as a qualifier for the Grand Prix later in the evening and Hanley and Quirex jumped double-clear in that event as well but had to settle for sixth overall on time.

Some, though not all, riders, switched horses over the four rounds that figured in the team event and the Grand Prix, but Hanley stuck with Quirex throughout and they were the only pairing to go clear in all four.

It wasn’t a bad evening’s work either for Michael G. Duffy. In the team contest he had scored a clear with Lapuccino for Madrid In Motion on Thursday. For Saturday’s conclusion he brought out Castlefield Rubinus. Over what was proving to be a very tricky course he pulled off a splendid clear.

Duffy was carrying with him the memory of the late Jack Dodd, the 25-year-old Irish rider who died last week after losing his battle against injuries sustained in a car crash in Belgium. Like other Irish riders, Hanley included, Duffy was wearing a black armband to show his respect, and afterwards attributed his clear round to Dodd.

“We lost one of our best riders” he said.

“We grew up together and have been best friends. He was in there with me — I know it.”

Hanley also had a good meeting with Eis Isaura, winning Friday’s speed class and taking third later that day in the jump-off contest.

Irish riders were in the money across the Atlantic as well, Darragh Kerins netting a four-star jump off class at Upperville, Virginia with Chill RZ and a runner-up placing in a speed class with Silteplait de Circee, while Shane Sweetnam and Main Road took sixth in Saturday’s four-star Grand Prix in Tryon, North Carolina.

Daniel Coyle won Thursday’s Grand Prix qualifier at Spruce Meadows, Canada on Tienna and claimed second on Sunday with Farona in the ATCO Challenge. 

His brother Jordan scored a runner-up finish at the Canadian venue in a 1.55m jump-off class on Eristov.

At home, Dressage Ireland Chairman Joe Reynolds has welcomed the Horse Sport Ireland sponsorship of its Combined Training Challenge announced yesterday.

“It will be of huge benefit to a wide range of equestrian riders in dressage, show jumping and eventing,” he said.

The initiative aims to encourage more riders to embrace the discipline of dressage, and carries a prize fund of €10,000.

Liam O’Meara won Sunday’s national Grand Prix at Ballivor with Curraghgraigue Jack Take Flight, swooping late to take the event with three seconds to spare.

There will be plenty of equine interest at Cork Summer Show which takes place this Saturday and Sunday at Curraheen.



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