Peter Fell predicts weather gods will shine on Ballindenisk

The first Irish international event of the year gets underway this weekend at Ballindenisk in Co Cork. Organiser Peter Fell told the Irish Examiner yesterday he was confident the recent adverse weather would not affect the staging of the event.

“The forecast is very good,” he said. “There’s been a huge amount of drying today and the weather is looking good up to and including the weekend. We’re quietly confident everything will be fine.”

As course designer for the event, Fell spoke about having to make changes.

“Of course, you have to think about the ground. It’s
always a challenge but you have to think things through.”

That has meant, he said, a certain amount of shifting for phases from where they would normally be staged.

“The dressage is at one end of the farm and the show jumping’s at another end,
because we’ve put them onto the best of the ground.”

There are plans to move the show jumping and dressage arenas between classes. “The most important thing for us is to have the best ground for the horses. We’ll do everything we can to keep the ground as
optimal as possible.”

In all, competitors from 11 countries are expected at the Cork venue, with the bulk of overseas entries coming from international riders who are based in the UK.

“It’s brilliant for Ireland, because they’re on our doorstep,” said Fell. “It’s a good boost for the economy, having so many people coming over.”

That said, a lot of the bigger international names will have other targets in the lead up to the World Championships, but there will be plenty turning out to see New Zealand’s world champion and Olympic gold-medalist Blyth Tait, for one.

The meeting runs from
Friday to Sunday and is the first of six fixtures which are part of the new Horse Sport Ireland Eventing Challenge. The initiative includes the events at Tattersalls, Mallow, Cappoquin, and Millstreet, and concludes with the second Ballindenisk meeting in
September.

Any rider — Irish or international — who nets podium finishes in CCI2* or CIC2* at three of the six meetings is in line for a prize of €10,000, with the relevant groom set to pocket €1,000.

A lot of people had reason to smile when Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift came out on top in the Grantham Cup at Belton Horse Trials on Sunday. Apart from the help of a couple of major shareholders, Jonty bought the horse through a crowd-funding
appeal last year and, with
donations ranging from £1
upwards, it took a lot of
participants to make up the balance of £250,000 (€289,000). The major disappointment at the time was that Evans couldn’t realise his stated aim of having the deal done and dusted in time for the last year’s European Championships, and not much transpired in a few late-season
outings.

Things look a lot better after Sunday. Evans was sharing sixth place on a score of 28.8 at the conclusion of the dressage phase and stayed fault-free over the next two stages,
adding just 3.6 cross-country time penalties. As his rivals dropped away, Evans was left 1.3 penalties ahead of British runner-up Piggy French on Vanir Kamira.

There are still five months to go before the year’s main target of the World Championships in North Carolina, but it’s certainly a shot in the arm for UK-based Evans and ‘the people’s horse’. Not engaged at Ballindenisk, Badminton Horse Trials will be their next outing in three weeks’ time, where they will be part of a strong Irish presence at the UK showcase.

In show jumping, meanwhile, Meadowlands Equestrian Centre in Co Armagh stages the first round of this year’s TRM/Horse Sport Ireland New Heights Champions Series on Saturday and
Sunday.

On the international stage this week, the main action takes place in Shanghai, which hosts the third round of this year’s Global Champions Tour/League. In the team (league) event, there could be at least one debut for an Irish rider, with Michael G Duffy due at the Chinese venue as part of the Madrid In Motion squad, while Cameron Hanley may get a call up for the Miami Celtics team. Miami were the winners of the first round in Mexico, when
Michael Duffy and Denis Lynch represented the team. Their squad also includes
Ireland’s Shane Breen and USA’s Jessica Springsteen. Michael G Duffy is the only Irish rider in the five-member Madrid squad. The Global Champions Tour Grand Prix takes place on Saturday at 11pm (Irish time).


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