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Friday 24 November 2017

Irish make hay in the Sunshine state

Darragh Kenny, Kevin Babington, Robert Splaine (Chef d'Equipe), Lorcan Gallagher, Conor Swail at the 2015 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in Ocala, Florida. Photo: Anthony Trollope
Darragh Kenny, Kevin Babington, Robert Splaine (Chef d'Equipe), Lorcan Gallagher, Conor Swail at the 2015 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in Ocala, Florida. Photo: Anthony Trollope
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Irish show jumpers have been on top form in Florida of late, with the Nations Cup in Ocala being included in the list of wins achieved recently.

Competing in the warm Florida sunshine, the team of Darragh Kenny, Lorcan Gallagher, Kevin Babington and Conor Swail swept to victory in the FEI Furusiyya Nations' Cup when finishing on a total of just four faults.

Ireland's victory was made remarkable by the fact that it was the first time all four horses had competed at Nations' Cup level, while 23-year-old Gallagher from Co Down was making his debut in a senior team.

Ireland was up against five other teams, and the USA and Canada were favourites to win, but the Irish quartet were in command from the outset with four consecutive clears in the first round.

Carrick-on-Suir native Kevin Babington, riding the 10-year-old mare Shorapur, delivered another clear in the second round, as did Swail with Grafton, ensuring an against-the-odds Irish victory.

The USA finished on eight faults, while Canada and Colombia tied for third place on 12 faults.

Afterwards Irish show jumping team manager Robert Splaine said: "Four clears in the first round with four new horses was exceptional, and then to get double clears from Kevin and Conor was superb. Man of the match has to be Lorcan Gallagher, who did an exceptional job in his first time at this level.

"There is a great tradition between the US and Ireland with so many of our riders now based here, and Ocala proved to be a superb show. Our victory was only made possible by the great owners who support the team."

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Though Ocala was not a points-scoring show for Ireland in the Furusiyya league, it did give Splaine an opportunity to watch new US-based combinations at a top level.

Babington is one of the most experienced of the large band of Irish riders on the US circuit and he continued his good run of form when placing second in the $150,000 Grand Prix on the final day of the show.

Again riding Shorapur the 46-year-old came within a whisker of victory and only one-fifth of a second divided him from the winner, American Laura Kraut, riding Cedric. Babington had to settle for second place in the end, but netted €22,000 for his efforts.

This had concluded a great few days for the rider, who was also in the winner's enclosure in the Grand Prix qualifier with the Irish-bred Mark Q.

A time of 69.44 seconds proved impossible to beat, despite the best efforts of the strong international field.

The Irish riders have now returned to Wellington for the Winter Equestrian Festival which continues this week.

This is the biggest horse show in the world and runs for a total of 13 weeks from January until March.

Indo Farming