Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cork venue hosts eventing opener

Strong British contingent for international competition at Ballindenisk

Good breeding: Zara Philips will ride the Irish-bred High Kingdom at this week's three-day event at Kentucky
Good breeding: Zara Philips will ride the Irish-bred High Kingdom at this week's three-day event at Kentucky

Siobhán English

Ireland's international three-day eventing season kicks off next weekend at Ballindenisk, Co Cork where the home riders will be vying for top places in each of the feature classes.

Just 12 combinations will contest the inaugural three-star, a new addition to the schedule this year.

The Irish will be represented in this class by two riders, Joseph Murphy (DHI Top Story) and Michael Ryan on Dunlough Striker. Murphy's mount has shown great promise and won on his first outing of the 2015 season at Kedrah Castle last month.

Heading the six-man British challenge will be Andrew James and Ben Hobday, while Katherine Coleman rides for the USA with Courage Under Fire.

British riders also dominate the entries in the two-star, with Oliver Townend taking over four horses - Note Worthy, Mr Hiho, Red Andes Fanfare and Colonel Joe. Piggy French, Andrew James and JP Sheffield are also among those travelling south. Tipperary-born Padraig McCarthy now rides for Britain, the birthplace of his partner Lucy Wiegersma, and brings over Philadelphia.

Among the Irish entries here are Michael Ryan (Apogee), Louise Lyons (Theatreworld), Ciaran Glynn (Gee Que), Jayne Doherty (The Precious One), Steven Smith (Bonito) and Aoife Clarke (Wasting Light).

As in previous years Ballindenisk will host the FEI Nations Cup, but this time just three nations will contest the second leg of this series. Ireland will be joined by riders from Britain and France, winners of the opening leg in Fontainebleau last week.

Irish riders here include Camilla Speirs with Portersize Just A Jiff, who finished a creditable sixth individually in the CCIO three-star in Burgham three weeks ago.

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The CIC two-star is dominated by Irish entries, including Sarah Ennis on Moss Star. She rides Westwinds Karlos and DHI Okey Cokey in the one-star equivalent.

The pony class is always hugely competitive and the 2014 winners Lucy Hancock and Newtown Westie will return in a bid to retain their crown in the one-star contest.

Kentucky event

Meanwhile, Irish riders Austin O'Connor and Tim Bourke will fly the flag at the Rolex three-day event in Kentucky which gets underway later this week.

In 2014 O'Connor finished 13th riding Ringwood Mississippi but this year he takes along Kate Jarvey's other top horse, Balham Houdini, an 11-year-old gelding by Warrenstown U2.

US-based Bourke also rides another Irish-bred, Luckaun Quality, a 10-year-old gelding by OBOS Quality 004.

High Kingdom, a son of Master Imp who was bred in Wicklow by William Micklem, will be ridden by Britain's Zara Phillips, who is set to make her debut at the first four-star event of the 2015 competition calendar.

The Rolex is one of only six such events held worldwide, the others being Badminton, Pau, Luhmuhlen, Bughley and Adelaide.

Phillips will joined in the US by fellow British rider William Fox-Pitt - a winner here in 2010, 2012 and 2014 - along with Nicola Wilson, James Alliston and Francis Whittington.

They will face challenges from many of the globe's finest riders, among them German Michael Jung, who won individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and who is the current Olympic -title holder.

All of North America's best equestrian athletes will be competing at Rolex Kentucky this year. This includes the 2008 winner Phillip Dutton, Olympic -team member Boyd Martin and Buck Davidson, son of Bruce Davidson, who won the 1978 World Championships at Kentucky - the first major event to be held at the venue.

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials are considered the greatest three-day events in the world. United, they form the sport's most valuable prize, the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing.

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