Irish riders ‘up their game’ as world championship on horizon

With equestrian sport’s world championships, the World Equestrian Games, less than three months away, Irish eventing was boosted at the weekend by a number of stellar performances at the four-star German meeting at Luhmühlen.

Sam Watson

Irish manager Sally Corscadden was on hand to witness two top-10 finishes. Sam Watson took sixth with Horseware Ardagh Highlight, and Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua finished on the same penalty score but one place behind due to the cross-country optimal time differential.

Neither incurred actual time penalties, which is what pleased Corscadden most.

We were aiming to get our riders fast cross-country and to have two of them inside the time was fantastic,” she said.

“We are thrilled with the result. It was a very tough competition and you don’t get a higher standard than CCI4*. Our riders are really upping their game. Trish Ryan also had a brilliant performance to finish twelfth and it shows we are adding more depth to our squad. We feel we are becoming much more competitive and this gives us great confidence heading to the World Equestrian Games this year and for next year’s European Championships.”

Cork rider Ryan was not far off a top 10 finish either on Dunrath Eclipse. The pairing were almost home intact in Sunday’s show jumping but downed a pole at the final fence.

It was a hard-luck story for American Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4. The pairing had been overnight leaders after Saturday’s cross-country, but Martin made the decision to withdraw ahead of show jumping after the horse was found to have incurred a hind leg tendon strain.

“Being a 16-year-old horse, this will most likely be the end of Shamwari competing at the top of the sport,” Martin said.

It has been an absolute privilege to ride him. He is one of the best horses I have ever ridden, and it was sad that he never won a four-star. I truly thought that this weekend was his.

Michelle Kenny scored another notable Irish result at the German venue when partnering Carlchen to a fifth placing in the CIC3* contest.

Yesterday the Gain Irish eventing squads were named for this year’s Young Rider (U21) and Junior (U18) European Championships which take place in France at Fontainebleau in July. Debbie Byrne’s young rider squad consists of Nessa Briody (Tom Boy), Eva Melly (Annaghmore Ardeo Beach), Christine O’Donnell (Blessington Prince Royal), Toni Quail (Ringfort Rua) and Stephanie Stammschroer (Master Swatch), while the junior squad managed by Tom Doherty comprises Anna Kelly (Something Special VI), Romy McCarthy (Miracle), Robyn McCluskey (Rum Jumble), Lucy McIlroy (Major Black), Katie Riley (Versace Biscuit) and Maresa Ronan (Superjumbo).

Germany are the defending champions in both the Young Rider and Junior championships, having carried off the double in last year’s staging at Millstreet.

Victories for German teams are commonplace across the equestrian disciplines so it comes as a shock to see their senior show jumping team struggling so badly in the nations cup series. They finished last in Sunday’s latest qualifier in Poland and are now in danger of relegation from the top flight. Ireland were not involved in that latest round and have almost another month to go before their next qualifier in Sweden. Germany’s last qualifier takes place this weekend in Rotterdam. Ireland currently lie sixth in the ten-team Europe Division 1 table but have only used two of their five qualifiers to date.

Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor will compete as individuals at the Rotterdam fixture.

After last weekend’s Bolesworth double for Paul Kennedy and Cartown Danger Mouse, which included Sunday’s Grand Prix, and Shane Breen’s Puissance win at the UK venue, there may be more sterling in Irish hands this coming weekend with a host of the country’s riders competing at the four-star Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby meeting.

Sunday’s Galway County Show Grand Prix was won by Shane Goggins and Wrangler 11, formerly ridden by the late young show jumper Jack Dodd. “When I got the horse I got on to Jack and he told me how to ride him - he must have been looking down on me.” Goggins said after his victory. The Mayo rider said he may look to Cork for his next national Grand Prix target.


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