Equestrian: successful weekend for Ireland after Barcelona victory
Tokyo 2020 qualification secured while there were further successes in Europe and USA
Ireland clinched both the 2019 title and the single qualifying spot on offer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. (From left to right - Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Darragh Kenny and Cian O’Connor). Photograph: Linnea Rheborg/FEI/Getty
In a weekend dominated by Ireland’s victory in the €1.25m Longines FEI show jumping Nations’ Cup final in Barcelona and the team’s qualification for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, there were other successes in Europe and in the United States.
The Barcelona win came through the efforts of Waterford’s Peter Moloney on Team Harmony Management’s Chianti’s Champion, Limerick’s Paul O’Shea with Machu Picchu Partners’ Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, Offaly’s Darragh Kenny riding Ann Thompson’s Balou du Reventon and Meath’s Cian O’Connor on Ronnoco Jump’s PSG Final.
The Irish quartet finished on just one time fault with the defending champions, Belgium, winners of the team gold in the European championships in Rotterdam in August, completing on a total of four. Sweden finished third on 12 faults.
“We had a very clear objective coming here, the riders were super-focused and the horses were in great shape,” commented Horse Sport Ireland’s show jumping team manager, Rodrigo Pessoa. “Today we expected a very tough fight from Italy and Colombia who were our direct opponents (for Tokyo qualification), but, as it happened, we were also holding strong against the big countries like Belgium and others.
“People sometimes don’t realise the pressure the riders are under to bring this qualification home. The weight of their country was on their shoulders, it was a big ask from them and to do it in the style they did it - hats off to them!
“We already had two disciplines qualified (dressage and eventing) but it’s been a long time since Ireland, a great equestrian nation, has been at the Olympics Games in show jumping and it was this team’s responsibility to bring it home.
“That for me was the most stressful thing today, to feel what they felt and how hard it must have been for them to ride in those conditions. They had such a great mental attitude - nothing could have stopped them from achieving what they did. I was called in a few years ago to do a job (achieve Olympic Jumping qualification) so now it’s mission accomplished!” concluded Pessoa.
At the five-star show on Saturday, Darragh Kenny won the Queen’s Cup, a 1.50m winning-round class with SHL Farm’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Sweet Tricia.
While there were plenty of placings, there were no wins for Irish riders at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham on Saturday but the three-star event ended on Sunday night with victory for Derry native, David Simpson, in the Leading Show Jumper of the Year competition.
Based in west Sussex, Simpson was one of three Irish riders from 29 starters who made it through to the second round of the 1.60m class where he recorded the fastest of six double clears to win on the 13-year-old Gentlemen vh Veldhof (33.43). Co Tipperary-born Denis Lynch finished fifth with GC Chopin’s Bushi (36.94).
On the showing side, the supreme Horse of the Year was Twinbrook Rainbow, the heavyweight bay gelding which, earlier in the week, had been crowned champion hunter. Ridden by English producer Jayne Ross, a big supporter of the Irish horse, the Ricardo Z seven-year-old was bred in Co Offaly by Brendan Corcoran out of the Chillout mare, Chillrea.
On Saturday, the Irish-bred Our Cashel Blue was judged cob of the year under another leading British producer, Alistair Hood. The 10-year-old lightweight skewbald gelding, which also won the title in 2016 (when he was champion horse) and 2017, missed the show last year as he had been operated on just weeks earlier for a cancerous tumour on his shoulder.
Across the Atlantic, in Tryon, North Carolina, Kilkenny’s Richie Moloney won Saturday night’s 1.45m Grand Prix on Equinimity’s 12-year-old Finnish-bred stallion, Ypaja Yando (46.819). With four faults in the jump-off round, Co Meath’s Nicky Galligan finished fifth on Javas Miss Jordan.
In dressage, Co Meath’s Kate Dwyer finished fourth with Snowdon Faberge (71.535%) in Saturday’s Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) at the three-star show in Keysoe, England. The class was won by Britain’s Emma Hindle riding Romy Del Sol (73.300). With the 13-year-old British-bred gelding, Dwyer was a member of the team at the European dressage championships in Rotterdam in August that secured Olympic team qualification for Ireland.
In a good show for the Irish, international pony rider Martha Jobling-Purser brought up a double when landing the FEI Pony individual class on the 15-year-old German-bred gelding, Valido’s Starlight. England-based Jobling-Purser is a grandniece of Juliet Jobling-Purser who, riding Jenny, finished best of the Irish in seventh in the eventing competition at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.
Britain’s Piggy French partnered a record 14th international eventing success in a season when landing the 91-runner CCI3*-L class at Osberton in England on Sunday with Highdown March (27.2 penalties). Cork native Austin O’Connor finished best of the Irish in eighth with Scott Milnes’s eight-year-old Ars Vivendi mare, Vivendi Time (35.5).