Equestrian: Three Irish riders set for Champions League playoffs final

Co Offaly’s Darragh Kenny once again jumped clear

Three Irish riders will be involved in Sunday’s final of the Global Champions League playoffs in the O2 Arena, Prague following Friday night’s semi-final in the Czech capital.

Six teams have advanced to the super cup final and, while all will start on zero, the Paris Panthers, who were fifth to compete on Friday, must be one of the favourites following their semi-final success with the only four-fault score.

Co Offaly’s Darragh Kenny once again jumped clear, but this time on Romeo 88, while Egypt’s Nayel Nassar also left all the poles intact with Lucifer V. Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet had a fence down with MJT Nevados S but that was good enough to top the leaderboard at the close of play.

“It’s a great result for our team,” said the Paris Panthers owner, Jennifer Gates. “Everyone was great today – I’m very proud of them.” Kenny commented: “We are thrilled to be on strong form today. But the calibre of competition is so high and teams will be fielding their beset horses and riders for the final.”

With six teams completing on eight faults, places two through to seven were decided on time and Madrid In Motion, one of four teams who had been given a bye into the semi-finals on their league results through the season, filled the runner-up spot in 196.70.

Valkenswaard United, who were first to jump on Friday night, booked their place in the final thanks to a clear round from Co Meath’s Cian O’Connor on PSG Final as Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Frank Schuttert of The Netherlands had a fence down apiece with Comme Il Faut and Queensland E respectively, all in a time of 199.06.

Sweden’s Peder Fredricson got the Shanghai Swans off to a good start with a clear on H&M Christian K but this team too had to keep a close eye on the clock (199.33) as both Co Cork’s Shane Sweetnam, riding Chaqui Z, and Germany’s Daniel Deusser on Jasmien vd Bisschop picked up four faults. Also through to the final are the Monaco Aces (200.06) and the Cannes Stars (204.50).

The home favourites, the Prague Lions (who are managed by Irish Olympian Jessica Kürten), narrowly failed to qualify when their eight faults came in 205.52 while there was disappointment too for the League winners, London Knights, who finished eighth on 12 faults (203.24). Just behind them came Thursday’s quarter-final winners, the Miami Celtics (12 faults in 203.81), although Co Galway’s Michael Duffy once again put in a brilliant clear with the Irish Sport Horse Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars.

The Global Champions League super cup final takes place on Sunday, with a 3.30pm local time start, while the focus on Saturday evening will be centred on the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix. Darragh Kenny and Shane Sweetnam are among the 18 riders listed to jump in the 1.60m two-round competition which has a €1,250,000 prize-fund.

Elsewhere, Meath’s Alexander Butler partnered Chilli B into third place in Friday evening’s 1.45m jump-off class at Peelbergen, The Netherlands while, earlier in the day, Co Mayo’s Jonathan Gordon also finished third in a similar class at Valencia in Spain on Dorotheental’s Classica.

In dressage, Irish Olympian Anna Merveldt scored 68.087% to place fifth in Friday’s four-star Grand Prix in Munich, Germany with Esporim. Merveldt also rode the 10-year-old Lusitano gelding when a member of the Irish team which qualified for next year’s Olympic Games at the European dressage championships in Rotterdam in August.