Trish Ryan and Sam Watson’s contrasting fortunes

Woodcourt Garrison was champing at the bit at the prospect of tackling the cross-country at Ballindenisk Horse Trials with Sarah Ennis.

Trish Ryan and Sam Watson had one thing in common after their dressage tests in the CCI three-star at the Ballindenisk International Horse Trials, in that they were both surprised.

However, it was for different reasons.

Ryan scored 42.7 penalties with Tullineasky Hi Ho to lead the field in the feature class at the Cork fixture, while Watson was at a loss to explain his 53.3pens with the hugely-experienced Horseware Bushman, though he subsequently put himself back in the frame with a 44.9 that left him fourth on Imperial Sky.

Ryan said: “I’m very surprised. The horse did very well, but he had a few mistakes and he’s not a big flashy mover like some others here.

“Obviously, though, his performance warranted a good mark,” she said.

However, the Bandon rider did admit that “he has done a 43 previously, so he can pull it out at times… when we get everything together,”

Understandably, she was reluctant to say if she would still be top of the field at the close of play on Sunday.

“I haven’t walked the course yet, but my horse knows this place well, which is the only advantage I will have over the others, but it’s a true international field.

“Touch wood, he’s normally OK in show jumping, but you never know what will happen on the day, what sort of a course will be put up.”

Watson had concluded his dressage on Bushman and was preparing to sit up on Imperial Sky. As he pondered his opening foray with the former, he was at a loss to explain how he had scored so poorly.

“It’s funny how it worked out, Horseware Bushman is the four-star horse, so I was meaning business with him and, while he did a good test this morning, he was marked hard. One judge had him up there just a few marks behind Trish at the top of the leaderboard, but two of the judges were hard on him, so, he’s handicapped maybe six or seven marks off where I wanted him. That makes it difficult, but at his age, he’s 16, I’m not saving him for anything, so I’ll give him a good run cross-country.”

The nine-year-old Imperial Sky subsequently found favour with the judges, however, giving Watson cause for optimism.

“There’s still a massive amount more to come from him, so to be scoring there at this stage of his development bodes very well for the future,” he said.

Briton Oliver Townend is hard to ignore and it was no surprise therefore to see him placed second and third on Cooley SRS and MHS King Joules, respectively, on 44.3pens and 44.7pens.

Townend is a perennial raider at Ballindenisk, but Watson feels such is the quality of the field, with the likes of New Zealand star Blyth Tait (Dasset Courage, 46.2pens) and Italian Vittoria Panizzon (Borough Pennyz, 46.4pens) nicely poised in fifth and sixth, only the foolish would try to call the result in a class that has attracted 30 runners.

“I think it’s a really exciting field this year,” said Watson. “It’s the strongest CCI three-star I’ve ever seen at Ballindenisk, a lot of different nationalities prepping horses for Rio, plus there are a lot of Italians here trying to get qualified for the Games, so it’s going to be an exciting class,” said the Carlow rider.

Dressage continues today with the CIC classes, with the excitement of cross-country tomorrow and show jumping on Sunday.

Ireland show jumping eam manager Robert Splaine was satisfied yesterday after his team qualified seventh of eight teams for tomorrow’s Furusiyya Nations Cup Series final in Barcelona, Spain.

“We achieved our objective. We qualified for the final on Saturday and I’m pleased with that,” said the Corkman.

“We start from scratch on Saturday and I think we have left some petrol in the tank. It being our European Championships team, they are capable of pulling off a bigger result in the final.”

The single-round contest saw Ireland lying 14th of the 19 nations at one stage, as Bertram Allen (Molly Malone V) and Greg Broderick (MHS Going Global) delivered five apiece, before Cian O’Connor (Good Luck) and Denis Lynch (All Star) ended with four each for a total of 13 faults.

France was among the shocks of the day, exiting in 16th place, while Brazil and Italy also failed to make the cut.

Ireland will face Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Britain, the US, Netherlands, and Switzerland in tomorrow’s decider.

Conor Swail was in the money again with Simba de la Roque last weekend, banking over $41,000, along with the bonus of a two-year lease on a Mercedes for his win in the New Albany Classic in Ohio.


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