Kevin Babington wins Equinimity WEF Challenge in Wellington

Ireland’s Conor Swail finished fourth in the FEI World Cup qualifier also in Wellington

Debbie Lane, presenting the Barry Louise Lane Perpetual Memorial Trophy, with ringmaster Steve Rector and Kevin Babington on Mark Q. Photograph: Sportfot

Debbie Lane, presenting the Barry Louise Lane Perpetual Memorial Trophy, with ringmaster Steve Rector and Kevin Babington on Mark Q. Photograph: Sportfot

 

An extended weekend of action for Ireland’s international show jumpers concluded on Sunday at Deerirdge Farm in Wellington, Florida where Conor Swail finished fourth in the FEI World Cup qualifier.

The starting line-up of 38 included six Irish competitors with Swail and Co Mayo native Cormac Hanley progressing to the jump-off round where they faced seven rivals over the shortened course designed by Ireland’s Alan Wade.

While Hanley had one down with VDL Cartello to finish eighth, Co Down-born Swail recorded one of just four double clears, stopping the clock on 44.68 seconds with Vanessa Mannix’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding GK Coco Chanel. The USA’s Alex Granato claimed the honours when home in 42.70 on Carlchen W.

On Saturday, Swail partnered Rose Hill Farm’s Rubens LS La Silla (44.96) into second place in the 1.55m jump-off class won by Britain’s Ben Maher on Cirus du Ruisseau Z (44.82). Co Cork’s Shane Sweetnam also went double clear to finish fourth on Palina de l’Escaut (48.44) while a fence down in 45.20 saw Co Offaly native Darragh Kenny place sixth with Babalou.

Derry’s Daniel Coyle partnered Ariel Grange’s Quintin (72.34) into second place in Thursday’s 1.45m speed class which was won by Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs on Cristo (71.37).

Also in Wellington, but at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Irish riders’ best result came in Thursday’s fourth round of the Equinimity WEF Challenge where they filled three of the top four places.

A large starting line-up of 65 combinations took on the first-round track designed by Brazil’s Anderson Lima in the grass Derby field but just six qualified for the jump-off.

The first second-round clear was set in 44.23 by the USA’s Carly Anthony with Clochard but Co Tipperary native Kevin Babington, who was second last to jump, knocked more than four seconds off that time when home in 40.03 with his longtime partner, the Irish Sport Horse gelding Mark Q.

Darragh Kenny, riding Veronica Tracy’s Chinook II, was the final competitor to take on the shortened track and, while leaving all the fences standing, had to settle for second when stopping the clock on 40.84. Newry-born Lorcan Gallagher had a fence down with Hunters Conlypso II to finish fourth.

A son of the still active Oldenburg stallion OBOS Quality 004, the now 17-year-old Mark Q was bred in Co Carlow by John and Barbara Walshe out of the mare Abbey Emerald which was by the thoroughbred Positively. Babington has ridden the bay gelding, which excels on grass, for the past 10 years.

On Friday, Co Kilkenny’s Richie Moloney partnered Freestyle de Muze (49.441) into third place in the 1.50m jump-off class behind Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs on Chica BZ (38.851) and the USA’s Kelli Cruciotti riding Cicero’s Electric (40.832).

In Europe, Denis Lynch recorded a double of five-star wins at Treffen in Austria with Onyx Consulting’s 12-year-old mare Pretty Little Liar. In a time of 34.07, the Tipperary native initiated his brace in Saturday’s 1.50m two-phase class, where Co Mayo’s Michael G Duffy finished fifth on SIEC Anna Jo (38.66), and then filled his double when landing Sunday morning’s 1.50m speed competition.

In the two-star Grand Prix at the same venue, Kilkenny’s Anna Carway placed third on Ajaccio having picked up a single time fault in round one.

At the two-star show in Aarhus, Denmark, Limerick-born Shane Carey won his third Grand Prix in as many weeks on Maria Gretzer’s nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Fecybelle. Their clear jump-off round in 35.84 in Saturday’s 1.45m class saw them finish over three seconds ahead of their nearest challenger. This latest victory comes on the back of a double of victories for the combination weeks at Sopot in Poland.

Finishing 10th with Ipswich van de Wolfsakker, Tipperary’s Shane Breen was Ireland’s highest-placed rider in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. In Friday’s 1.50m two-phase class, the combination finished second (26.24) behind Sweden’s Charlotte McAuley riding Valentino Tuiliere (25.34). McAuley’s Co Louth-born husband Mark picked up a couple of placings over the three days at the five-star show.

In other news, Irish Olympian Judy Reynolds is up 19 places to 35th in the latest FEI World individual dressage rankings which were published on Friday.

Germany-based, Kildare native Reynolds and the 17-year-old Jazz gelding Vancouver K, owned by her parents Joe and Kathleen Reynolds, set a new Irish international Grand Prix Kür (freestyle to music) record score of 80.29 per cent in Amsterdam last month. Germany’s Isabell Werth retains the number one slot with Weihegold.

While it’s quiet on the eventing front at present, there was a win of sorts for Ireland when it was announced on Friday that the Duggan family in Millstreet will be hosting a leg of the Event Rider Masters at their Co Cork venue in August. This is the first time a round of the series will be staged in Ireland.

The competition, which runs over two days, will take place during the Millstreet international horse trials (August 21st to 25th) which are due to start just three days after the Millstreet international horse show (August 13th to 18th).

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