Jonty Evans primed in George Mernagh Memorial

Irish rider second heading into Sunday’s concluding cross-country phase in Meath

Ireland’s Jonty Evans lies a close-up second going into Sunday’s concluding cross-country phase of the George Mernagh Memorial CIC3* class at the Tattersalls international horse trials in Co Meath.

The Gloucestershire-based competitor and his Rio Olympics ride Cooley Rorkes Drift were among 15 combinations who completed on their dressage scores following Saturday’s show jumping phase from which the overnight leader, New Zealand’s James Avery, withdrew Zazu which had been on a score of 20.80 penalties.

The lead on 21.90 is currently held by Australia’s Emma McNab riding the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Tabasco with Evans and the 12-year-old ISH gelding Cooley Rorkes Drift occupying second place on 22.80 ahead of Britain’s Millie Dumas on Artisktiek (25.60). Co Carlow’s Sam Watson is next best of the Irish as he lies seventh on Imperial Sky (28.70) and eighth with Horseware Ardagh Highlight (30.40).

The cross-country action in this class gets under way at 1.0pm and is due to run for two hours after which the final show jumping phase in The Irish Field CCI3* class commences in the Main Arena.


Here, the lead is held by Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal on El Kazir SP (25.50) followed by Will Coleman of the United States on the ISH gelding OBOS O’Reilly (28.40) and Britain’s Izzy Taylor with Call Me Maggie May (30.40). England-based Co Cork native Austin O’Connor is in fifth place on the ISH gelding Kilpatrick Knight.

The show jumping phases of the two CCI2* competitions takes place on Sunday morning. In the Eventing Ireland open class the lead is still held by New Zealand’s James Avery on Vitali with Britain’s Piggy French next best on Cooley Monsoon (27.40). This 10-year-old ISH gelding is owned by British comedian Jennifer Saunders who is attending the event. Jonty Evans is again best of the Irish in this competition as he is in sixth place with Dreamliner (29.70).

In the Connolly’s Red Mills CCI2* class for riders under 25, Britain’s Tom Jackson tops the leaderboard with Court Casper on a penalty score of 25.70 with his compatriot Sam Ecroyd next best on 26.30. Kildare-based Cathal Daniels heads the Irish challenge in third with the eight-year-old ISH mare LEB Lias Jewel.

The four one-star class concluded with their show jumping phase on Saturday when British riders filled the top three placings in the prestigious Cooley Farm CCI1* class for six and seven-year-old horses. Laura Collett took the honours on 21.80 penalties with Calmaro ahead of Tom McEwen on the Co Sligo-bred ISH gelding Dreamaway with Sian Hawkes third on Lady Baton Rouge (27.10).

Best of the Irish in 10th, having had an expensive pole down, was England-based Co Meath-born Elizabeth Power with the ISH gelding DSL The Entertainer (29.90). This combination were also best of the Irish when fifth in the FEI world championships for young horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France last October.

In the Land Rover open CCI1* class the honours went to Britain’s Matthew Wright with a new ride, The Corn Crake (28.90). There was a good result here for Gilford’s Steven Smith as he finished fourth with the ISH gelding Donogue Big Ronnie (31.20) and eighth with the mare Michel M (32.80).

Having finished second here last year, Newtownards’ Katie Riley and the 14-year-old ISH gelding Versace Biscuit stepped up to win the Kubota CCI1* class for junior riders while the leaderboard in the Berney Bros Saddlery CCI1* class for ponies was topped by Co Kilkenny’s Charlotte Teehan and the ISH mare Knockenpower Minnie.

While you could count the drops of rain that fell at Tattersalls over the first four days of the horse trials and country fair, things were a lot different in parts of Westmeath where international show jumping is taking place at the Mullingar Equestrian Centre; there they had to deal with some torrential downpours.

Saturday’s Francis Derwin Equestrian international 1.40m speed class was won by Ireland’s Aidan Killeen with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Idream while the Devenish Bet 1.30m class, which was also a speed competition, went to Ireland’s Cian Harrison riding the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Wannahave. The feature class of the show, the CSI2* 1.45m Grand Prix takes place on Monday.

Abroad, Irish show jumpers are enjoying an excellent run of victories with team wins for the seniors on Friday night in Portugal and, on Thursday, for an all-girls squad in an FEI pony nations’ cup in Wierden in The Netherlands.

At the Dutch venue, the Gary Marshall-led team comprised Orla Duffy (Atlanta), Katie Power (Ghost Rider), Lucy Shanahan (Caliber-De) and Ella Quigley (Clemens). They had been in second place, one fault behind Britain, at the halfway stage but turned things around in the second half as they completed with three faults compared to Britain's five. The home nation was third on 12 faults.

At the same venue on Friday, Jack Ryan (Cavalier Teaca), Ciaran Nallon (Zaronda II), Sean Monaghan (Simone) and Harry Allen (Cheese W-Z) finished on four faults to place second in the junior nations’ cup won by Belgium on a zero score. There was a second-place finish also for the children on horses’ nations’ cup team later in the day. Here, the Irish riders Isobel Hughes Kennedy (ESI Carvalho), Sarah Fitzgerald (Master Holiday), Lucy Morton (Delton 3) and Rhys Williams (CES Cruson) completed on 12 faults behind Belgium on nine. James Kernan was chef d’equipe for both teams.

Over a 1.60m track designed by Ireland's Alan Wade, Ireland won the three-star nations' cup in Lisbon on Friday night on a total of 16 faults ahead of Belgium (21) and the USA (28). With Taylor Vard as chef d'equipe, the team comprised Trevor Breen (who recorded the only double clear in the competition on Bombay), Michael Duffy (Jule van den Tinnenpot), Paul Kennedy (Cartown Danger Mouse) and Anthony Condon (SFS Aristio).

Across the Atlantic, Co Derry-born Daniel Coyle won the $250,000 five-star Grand Prix at Langley in Canada on Friday night with Ariel Grange's 12-year-old Holstein mare Cita. The combination are on the team named by Michael Blake for Sunday's €400,00 Longines FEI Nations' Cup along with Captain Brian Cournane (Dino), Richie Moloney (Carrabis Z) and Rubens LS La Silla (Conor Swail).

Having won a 1.40m jump-off class at Tryon on Friday with Kirschwasser SCF, Cork-born Shane Sweetman also claimed Saturday night’s FEI $132,000 three-star 1.50m Grand Prix with Main Road, a 10-year-old Swedish warmblood gelding owned by Sweet Oak Farm and Seabrook LLC.