Irish riders make strong start to five-star show in Verona

From a starting line-up of 40, Michael G. Duffy landed Friday’s 1.50m speed class

Irish riders had an excellent start to the five-star show taking place in Verona this weekend with Co Mayo's Michael G. Duffy landing Friday afternoon's 1.50m speed class on Carl Hanley Sporthorses' Chappo Chey.

From a starting line-up of 40, only nine totally clear rounds were recorded with Duffy posting the fastest time of 62.27 on Hanley’s nine-year-old Westfalian gelding. Second and third places went to the Swedish riders Henrik von Eckermann on Que Bueno de Hus Z (63.99) and Petronella Andersson on Eclatant (64.67).

In the evening's 1.55m jump-off class, Switzerland-based Co Louth native Mark McAuley partnered Vivaldi du Theil (36.83) into second place behind the Swedish combination of Peder Fredricson on H&M Christian K (35.95). Having lowered a pole in the second round, Wexford-born Bertram Allen finished sixth with Christy Jnr.

Joseph Murphy, who is Ireland's sole representative at Pau in southern France, is lying well off the pace after dressage with Sportsfield Othello (57th of 60 on 39.9 penalties) and Fernhill Frankie (58th on 40.3). Murphy is competing at the event for the fourth time with Sportsfield Othello, which was fifth here in 2014, while Fernhill Frankie is having his first start at the final four-star event of the year.

Heading into Saturday's cross-country phase, the lead is held by the No 1 rider on the FEI rankings, Britain's Oliver Townend with the Irish-bred Cillnabradden Evo, a 12-year-old gelding by S Creevagh Ferro. His compatriot Ros Canter, who won team and individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina last month, lies second on Zenshera (24.1) ahead of Germany's Andreas Ostholt riding Corvette 31 (25).

The 14-year-old VDL Ricochet gelding Horseware Stellor Rebound, who was ridden by Co Meath's Sarah Ennis to claim team silver at the World Equestrian Games, has won his north Co Dublin breeder, Rhona Barnwell, one of Horse Sport Ireland's new breeders' prizes for 2018.

These are awarded to the breeders of the top Irish-bred horses, irrespective of the horse's studbook of origin, in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) year-end rankings in both show jumping and eventing. The show jumping prize went to Co Kilkenny's Susan Lanigan-O'Keeffe and Marily Power, breeders of the 2004 Ard VLD Douglas mare Suma's Zorro which is ridden for Egypt by Sameh El Dahan.