Equestrian: busy night on both sides of the Atlantic for Irish riders

Three Irish riders finished in the top seven of the Rolex Grand Prix in Canada

Conor Swail finished third in Canada. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Irish riders picked up some top-level placings on Saturday, a busy night for five-star show jumping action on both sides of the Atlantic. This was especially so in Spruce Meadows, Canada where three Irish riders finished in the top seven of the Rolex Grand Prix.

Over a 1.60m track designed by the host nation’s Peter Grant, seven of the 41 starters progressed to the second round where three riders recorded a double clear. Fastest of these was Canada’s Eric Lamaze on Chacco Kid (46.25), followed by the World No 1 rider, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, on Albfuehren’s Bianca (46.96) with Co Down’s Conor Swail filling third place on Eadaoin Collins’s nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Koss van Heiste (47.20).

Derry’s Jordan Coyle finished sixth with the Elan Farm-owned gelding Eristov, one place ahead of Kerry-born Captain Brian Cournane with the 10-year-old gelding Armik which he owns along with his parents-in-law, Bob and Christine Stiller.

Earlier in the day, Co Offaly-born Darragh Kenny landed the 1.45m winning round competition on Ann Thompson’s 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Cassini Z (51.86) with Coyle’s brother Daniel placing fourth on Lothlorien Farm’s nine-year-old mare Legacy (53.50).


On Friday, Kenny won the featured 1.50m jump-off class when recording much the faster of two double clears in the five-strong second round.

As the first to go in the jump-off, Mexico’s Nicolas Pizarro put in a steady clear on Fabrice DN (50.06) but this was quickly bettered by Kenny who was home in 44.33 to win with Stone Hill Farm’s Zangerscheide 10-year-old Romeo 88. Conor Swail finished fifth when eliminated in the second round with Captain.

Kenny continues to be the top-ranked Irish rider on the latest Longines world show jumping rankings, moving up six places to No 17. He has been in outstanding form since the start of the year scoring several podium finishes in five-star Grand Prix competitions while he has also been on Nations’ Cup duty for Ireland.

Cork’s Shane Sweetnam is next best of the Irish at No.31, just ahead of Wexford’s Bertram Allen at No.34. Ireland has eight riders inside the top 50 including Denis Lynch (No.40), Shane Breen (No.42), Daniel Coyle (No.44), Conor Swail (No.45) and Mark McAuley (No.46). Allen continues his reign as the top ranked Under 25 rider in the world while Coyle is at No 3.

This weekend, Breen is competing at the five-star show in Cannes, France where, on Saturday night, he partnered the 11-year-old Ipswich van de Wolfsakker into fifth place (38.10) in the Longines Global Champions tour 1.60m Grand Prix won by Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels riding Gancia de Muze (34.69). The Tipperary native had earlier helped Miami Celtics to a runner-up finish in the Cannes leg of the Global Champions League.

At Weisbaden in Germany on Saturday, there was a win in the 1.45m speed class for Waterford’s Peter Moloney with Carmel Ryan’s home-bred nine-year-old, Compelling Z.

World Equestrian Games team silver medallist Sam Watson remains the highest-placed Irish equestrian athlete with the Carlow native at No 9 on the latest eventing rider rankings announced during week by the FEI. Watson scored a four-star win at Ballindenisk International in Co Cork in April while he also recorded an impressive fourth place finish at Tattersalls International last weekend. Galway’s Cathal Daniels is at No 17 while Meath’s Sarah Ennis is at No.22.

Daniels and Ennis, who too were on that silver medal-winning team at WEG, are competing this weekend at the Bramham international horse trials in England where the former is lying third going into Sunday’s concluding show jumping phase of the CCI4*-L competition for riders Under 25.

Riding his longterm international partner Rioghan Rua, Margaret Kinsella’s home-bred mare by Jack Of Diamonds, Kildare-based Daniels is on a penalty score of 33.7 behind the British pair of Yasmin Ingham on Sandman 7 (30.1) and Will Rawlin with VIP Vinnie (32.9).

England-based, Co Down native Susie Berry had a mixed day on the cross-country phase being eliminated with Ringwood LB before completing on a two-phase total of 73.6 with Stonedge which had a stop across the country. Picking up jumping and time penalties on the second leg, Co Limerick’s Robbie Kearns finished a place behind with Master McCormack (81.8).

In the senior competition, British riders were in the top seven places overnight, headed by Kitty King on Vendredi Biats (26.8). Co Down’s Joseph Murphy is lying 29th on Fernhill Frankie (59.1) with Ennis, who had a refusal on course, in 37th place on Woodcourt Garrison (69.2).

Murphy was also riding in the short-format class which concluded on Saturday with an all-the-way victory for Britain’s Gemma Tattersall on Quicklook V. On Cesar, a new ride for this season, Murphy completed on a penalty score of 31.9 which left him in 11th place of the 86 starters, two spots behind England-based Aoife Clark with Fernhill Advanture (30.2). Co Kildare-born Clark was making her first international appearance since the birth of her first child, son Patrick, on May 4th.

Highest-placed of the Irish in Saturday’s individual tests at the para-dressage international in Kronenberg, The Netherlands was Rosemary Gaffney who was lying fourth in the Grade IV competition with the 10-year-old bay mare Werona which she owns in partnership with Sue Smallman.

This weekend members of the Association of Irish Riding Clubs have converged on the Mullingar Equestrian Centre in Co Westmeath for their annual two-day Festival. On Saturday, the Mo Chara club won the wildcard qualifier for the Horseware team show jumping championship at the Dublin Horse Show.