Irish show jumpers grabbed the equestrian Grand Prix headlines in the past month, but at the weekend it was a dressage double which had the Irish flag flying in Europe with Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K scoring both a Grand Prix and a Grand Prix Special win at the glitzy four-star Fritzens-Schindlhof meeting in Austria.
The Rio finalists notched 75.58% in the Grand Prix on Friday, the pairing’s second-highest ever score in that event, and returned on Sunday to claim their first ever Grand Prix Special.
The latter was hugely significant, not just because it was their first win in the Special, but also because it was the first one they had contested since the Olympics, and to deliver such a result so close to the European Championships was very encouraging.
The Kildare rider is heading into a busy period with German engagements at Aachen and Verden before the Europeans in Gothenburg which begin three weeks into August.
It follows a pattern she has worked with Vancouver K, where lengthy breaks are followed by periods of intense competition. “That format suits us,” Reynolds says. “A couple of shows running up to a big event works well.”
Vancouver K, owned by Judy’s parents Joe and Kathleen Reynolds, had enjoyed a three-month break since the fourth-place finish in the FEI World Cup Final in Nebraska at the beginning of April. “I was delighted with how he came back after his break. He’s very fit and fresh and I couldn’t be happier.”
The Aachen meeting will feature the championship line of Grand Prix to Grand Prix Special to Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music). For Verden, the option will be a Grand Prix to Special or to Kür, and Reynolds is targeting the Special route for that meeting.
“We will ride the Special again just to have another run through,” she explains. After Aachen, the Irish rider will have a clearer picture of the opposition she is likely to face at the Europeans, as the powerful Germans will then announce their squad. Already ruled out are the world number two pairing of Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados and world number three Dorothee Schneider and Showtime, both horses being injured.
With European riders dominating the world dressage rankings, the Championships remain a significant event in the world of dressage, and Reynolds is cautious about playing up her chances. “We’ll be hoping for a top ten and after that, who knows,” she comments.
In other weekend action, Izzy Taylor took the feature Haygain CIC3* event at the Fernhill Sport Horses Kilguilkey international meeting on Perfect Stranger, aptly named as it was the British rider’s first visit to the Cork venue. “I’d never been here before so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
Taylor had words of praise for the cross-country course set by Mike Etherington-Smith. “Mike and Danny (Dulohery) have done an amazing job. My horses have had a good spin and come out of it learning a lot,” she said. Ireland’s Sarah Ennis took second on Horseware Stellor Rebound, with another Irish rider, Joseph Murphy, third with Sportsfield Othello.
In the TopSpec CIC2*, Robbie Kearns was best of the home riders, in fifth place with Garrybritt Bonny. Great Britain’s Rosie Fry won the contest, staying faultless after dressage. “The cross-country rode really well with a few decent questions, but my horse made it feel easy,” Fry said. It took a tiebreaker to decide second and third with New Zealand’s Blyth Tait on Havanna Van T Cataneahof prevailing over US rider Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border.
There was an Irish clean sweep in the Global Event Horses CIC1*, victory going to Ella Boyle and Candy with Michael Ryan (Briarhill Marco) and Sarah Dowley (Shannondale Dita) second and third respectively.
The weekend also saw two rounds of the Connolly’ s Red Mills Munster Grand Prix League completed. Liam O’Meara had three seconds to spare when winning round seven at West Clare on Saturday on Kennysflight, while on Sunday Ger O’Neill riding Billy Anchor took round eight at Clonmel, outpacing Gemma Phelan and GRC Acapella.
This weekend sees five-star show jumping action at the Global Champions Tour/League meeting at Cascais on the Portuguese coast, with Irish interest in Cian O’Connor and Bertram Allen.
O’Connor has zoomed up the latest world rankings to number 24 after a successful month in June during which his successes included a five-star Grand Prix win in Poland and a runner-up finish in another in the Netherlands. Allen, who is still Ireland’s highest ranked rider, is in a share of 17th, down one place from last month.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved