Jonty Evans sets national record at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton horse trial

Gloucestershire-based 45-year-old rode the Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Rorkes Drift

Ireland’s Jonty Evans goes into Saturday’s cross-country phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton horse trials in third place having set a national record at four-star level in dressage on Friday afternoon of 37.2 penalties.

The Gloucestershire-based 45-year-old rode the Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Rorkes Drift on which he finished ninth in last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The bay by Courage II was bred in Co Down by William McCarrison out of the Rachelle Comet mare Doon-A-Ree Lass.

“I am just over the moon with him, he tried so hard,” commented Evans who was competing at Badminton for the first time since 2007. “He was totally and utterly with me all through the test. He is a very special horse. What’s so amazing about him is that you know that if you turn up he will be there, and you can’t always say that about every horse.

“He is my horse of a lifetime,” continued the rider who owns Cooley Rorkes Drift in partnership with Fiona Elliott. “We have trained so hard and I’ve wanted to get under 40 for so long. It’s unbelievable, very special. I’d like to think the cross-country will suit my horse - he doesn’t look big because I’m so lanky, but he’s got a long stride. Finishing on my dressage score is the aim!”


The last Irish rider to win Badminton was Major Eddie Boylan on Durlas Eile in 1965 while the last top-three finisher from this country was leading racehorse trainer Jessica Harrington who was third on the home-bred thoroughbred mare Amoy in 1983.

The overnight leader, on an excellent score of 32.9 penalties, is England-based Australian Chris Burton who is also mounted on an ISH gelding bred in Co Down, Graf Liberty. The 12-year-old Limmerick gelding, which is out of the Cavalier Royale mare Lisheen Star, was bred by Brian and Shirley Livingstone. Germany's Ingrid Klimke lies second with her 13-year-old Olderburg gelding Horseware Hale Bob (36.4).

The top of the leaderboard is dominated by competitors who rode their tests on Friday, with Thursday's 'winner', French rider Thibaut Vallette, now only seventh with Qing du Briot (38.7). Co Meath's Sarah Ennis is the next best-placed Irish participant with Horseware Stellor Rebound (45.4) in 23rd, one spot ahead of England-based Cork native Austin O'Connor on Kilpatrick Knight (45.8).

Sally Corscadden, Horse Sport Ireland’s senior high performance director of the Irish eventing team, described today’s cross-country course, which was designed by Britain’s Eric Winter, as being “a true four-star test and not for the fainthearted. It’s like a Badminton of old, big and bold, but with a modern twist ... it asks question after question.”

The start times for the 11 Irish combinations are as follows:- Austin O'Connor (Kilpatrick Knight) 12.46, Jim Newsam (Magennis) 12.58, Clare Abbott (Euro Prince) 13.06, Camilla Speirs (Portersize Just A Jiff) 13.14, Joseph Murphy (Sportsfield Othello) 13.34, Michael Ryan (Dunlough Striker) 13.54, Sarah Ennis (Horseware Stellor Rebound) 14.06, Dominic Furnell (Ballycahane Flower Power) 14.42, Jonty Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) 15.50, Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua) 16.06 and Ciaran Glynn (November Night) 16.10.

The USA's Lauren Kieffer, riding Landmark's Monte Carlo, is due to start the day's action at 11.30 with New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson the last out at 16.54 on Nereo. The BBC is providing television coverage through its Red Button service starting at 11.30.