Irish eyes focused as second opportunity knocks in Qatar

Qatar stays in focus this week with a second successive five-star fixture in Doha following on from last weekend’s opening round of the Global Champions Tour.

Irish eyes focused as second opportunity knocks in Qatar

Qatar stays in focus this week with a second successive five-star fixture in Doha following on from last weekend’s opening round of the Global Champions Tour. While the GCT takes a month’s break, a number of Irish riders who took part in that opener remain at the Qatari venue for this week’s meeting, including Bertram Allen, Denis Lynch, Michael Duffy, Michael G. Duffy, and Shane Breen.

Although no Irish riders made the jump-off for the GCT Grand Prix, there were a number of good performances in the team element, the Global Champions League, which saw Bertram Allen’s Valkenswaard United once again at the business end of affairs with a runner-up finish aided by two clear rounds from Allen on Harley vd Bisschop. Michael G Duffy (Lapuccino) pulled one clear for Madrid In Motion, while Michael Duffy was clear in the first round for Miami Celtics on Quintano.

It was Allen who fared best of the Irish in the individual contests, particularly in Friday’s 1.55m class where he blitzed to victory on GK Casper in the jump-off after France’s Julien Epaillard had set what looked like the winning clear on Usual Suspect d’Auge with just Allen and three other riders to follow. The Wexford rider took his usual all or nothing approach and got his mount home more than a third of a second quicker. “He answered all the questions,” Allen said of his 11-year-old stallion.

The same pairing had earlier put in one of the fastest rounds in the 1.50m speed class but a pole on the deck at the second-last knocked them out of the money.

There was further reward for Allen when he finished third in the individual element of the team competition on Saturday. Shanghai Swans were the only ones to outdo Allen’s Valkenswaard, which no doubt pleased Swans squad member Shane Sweetnam who was not involved in this round, otherwise engaged with the Irish team in the Nations Cup in Florida.

In that contest, Ireland had to settle for second place after a jump-off with the USA. Both teams had finished tied on eight faults, and Daniel Coyle was tasked to go into the jump-off against USA’s McLain Ward. Coyle had already jumped double-clear in the contest proper with Farona, but a third proved beyond the pairing who finished with 12 faults, leaving Ward with a straightforward task to clinch it for the USA on Contagious.

Lorcan Gallagher and Hunters Conlypso II had also contributed a double-clear to the Irish effort in what was largely an experimental outing for the teams involved.

Gallagher said:

It’s a bittersweet night, but I’m very happy and proud with my own horse tonight and the American team was very competitive.

Shane Sweetnam had four- and eight-fault rounds on Kirschwasser and Paul O’Shea had two fours on his recent Grand Prix winner Imerald van’t Voorhof. There was no Irish success in the individual contests at the Florida meeting which was the eighth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival. This week the action goes up to five-star level.

Back in Europe, Irish riders are on a three-timer on the Sunshine Tour at Vejer de la Frontera in Spain, having won the Grand Prix in successive weeks. Richard Howley won it two weeks back at three-star level on Chinook while last Sunday it was Peter Moloney who netted the four-star equivalent with Ornellaia.

The Waterford rider was second into action in the five-horse jump-off and was faster by almost a second than Swiss leader Carlo Pfyffer who had gone clear on Intermezzo. Billy Twomey had also made the jump-off riding Lady Lou but the pairing’s chance went with a pole down mid-round and they had to be content with fifth. Irish dressage rider Judy Reynolds has climbed to 24th in the latest FEI rankings issued last Monday. It continues the seemingly inexorable move back to the top 20 for the Kildare rider and her long-time servant Vancouver K.

The pairing were ensconced in the upper regions after a brilliant period from mid 2016 to mid 2017, but dropped off the radar while the horse was out of action for a year. She has climbed 11 notches from the end of January rankings, thanks to her record score of 82.750% at the FEI Dressage World Cup round in Neumünster, Germany last month.

One has to go down to 265th in the rankings to find the next Irish rider, but this represents an upward move of 40 places for Dane Rawlins, who added to his points with Espoire at Lier in Belgium at the weekend where he finished 15th in the Grand Prix Special. Heike Holstein was two places higher in that event with Sambuca, which helped the Irish national champion pairing move up to 438th from 617th.

Germany’s Isabell Werth remains at the top of the rankings with Weihegold OLD ahead of American Laura Graves and Verdades.

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