Jonty Evans becomes first Irish rider to win the Grantham Cup

Evans partners Cooley Rorkes Drift to victory at Belton Park in Lincolnshire, England

Gloucestershire-based Jonty Evans became the first Irish rider to win the Grantham Cup when landing the featured CIC3* class at Belton Park in Lincolnshire, England on Sunday with his 2016 Olympics mount, Cooley Rorkes Drift.

Evans, who finished best of the Irish in ninth at the Rio Games, looked set to lose the ride on Cooley Rorkes Drift when the Courage II gelding’s owners put the horse on the market last year. However, through a crowd-funding appeal, the rider purchased the now 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse in August having reached his £500,000 target.

Over the weekend, Evans and the bay, which was bred in Co Down by William McCarrison out of a Rachelle Comet mare, were joint-sixth after the dressage phase (28.8), show jumped clear and then put in one of the competition’s fastest cross-country rounds to seal victory on a penalty score of 32.4. Britain’s Piggy French finished second on Vanir Kamira (33.7), a 13-year-old ISH mare by Camiro de Haar Z which was bred in Co Monaghan by Kathryn Jackson, while her compatriot, Gemma Tattersall, was third on Pamero 4 (34).

Eleven other Irish combinations competed in this 103-runner class, three of whom finished inside the top 20 - Aoife Clark on Fernhill Adventure (12th on 40), Claire Abbott with Euro Prince (13th on 40.5) and Elizabeth Power on Reenmore Duke (15th on 43.5). The Grantham cup is regarded as a warm-up for the Badminton horse trials which take place early next month.

Also at Belton Park, England-based Co Cork native Austin O’Connor, riding Wendie Foster’s ISH gelding Lucky Contender (by Chacoa), finished second (48.8) in the other CIC3* class behind Britain’s Tom Jackson on Billy Congo (39.5). Riding her own ISH gelding Cooley Cosmopolitan Diamond (by Canturo), Meath’s Sarah Ennis finished best of the Irish in ninth (34.1) in the CIC2* class won by Australia’s Chris Burton on Bahira M (28).

At home, the main eventing action of the weekend was at Tyrella in Co Down where locally-based London Olympian Joseph Murphy won the CNC3* class with the ISH gelding Sportsfield Othello (41.89), a 17-year-old Ricardo Z bay owned by the rider's wife Jill plus Alison Schmutz and Andrew Tinkler. Second there with Horseware Ardagh Highlight (44.9), Carlow's Sam Watson won the first leg of the Connolly's Red Mills SuperLeague on Imperial Sky.

This week sees the first of the country’s home international events being staged at Ballindenisk, Co Cork with dressage taking place on Friday and again on Saturday when there will also be show jumping and cross-country action. There will be more show jumping and cross-country on Sunday.

The USA's Beezie Madden won the FEI show jumping world cup for the second time in Paris on Sunday. The 54-year-old completed four rounds of jumping with Abigail Wexner's 12-year-old stallion Breitling LS on a total of four faults to take the title ahead of her fellow countryman, Devin Ryan, on Eddie Blue (six) and Sweden's Henrik von Eckermann with Toveks Mary Lou (eight).

Ireland had two riders competing in Paris, both of whom had two fences down on Thursday and Friday. Co Louth-born Mark McAuley got through to Sunday but again had two fences down in the first round with Miebello while Tipperary’s Denis Lynch was later eliminated on Friday after blood was spotted on All Star 5’s flanks.

Also in France, Robyn Moran from Askeaton in Co Limerick recorded the only double clear to win the 29-runner 1.25m pony Grand Prix at Fontainebleau on board the Annette Fitzgerald-owned ISH gelding Moores Pride, an 11-year-old chestnut by Moores Clover.

On the national scene, Waterford’s Paddy O’Donnell won Saturday’s penultimate round of the Connolly’s Red Mills 1.35m spring tour riding his own 16-year-old gelding Minority Report while Sunday’s final leg went to Co Galway’s Jessica Burke and Bernard Jordan’s home-bred Clonguish Vivaro, a nine-year-old gelding by Vivaldo van het Costersveld. Co Galway’s Sven Hadley was crowned league champion