Equestrian: Floody steals show as Fitzgibbon books RDS spot
John Floody won the latest leg of the SJI Premier Grand Prix League series at Tattersalls 2-Star International Horse Show in Fairyhouse, Meath, yesterday.
But it was reigning Irish national champion Nicola Fitzgibbon who clinched the final qualifying spot for the international classes at next week's Failte Ireland Dublin Horse Show when lining up second. The Meath venue presented the eighth round of the 10-leg series and it was local man Floody, highly competitive all season and already assured of his place in the hallowed RDS arena, who threw down the gauntlet in the Jem Construction-sponsored feature class.
First of the eight through to the second-round jump-off, he stamped his authority all over the scoreboard when returning another clear round in 36.30 seconds with Michael Smith's consistent nine-year-old Larkhill Cruiser, and no one looked like catching him until last-to-go Fitzgibbon set off with her talented bay gelding Puissance.
The rider from Kilteel in Kildare had her own agenda, however, as her sights were firmly fixed on just one thing: her last chance to take her place among the elite international riders at Ireland's showcase equestrian fixture.
The top three on the leaderboard of the SJI Premier Series following yesterday's competition were guaranteed a place on the RDS starting blocks, and the first two spots had already been claimed by Floody and in-form Limerick man Paul O'Shea. When Fitzgibbon's main rival, Edward Little, faulted with Kalvinretto in the first round yesterday, she came into the jump-off knowing she could afford to have one fence down.
But the 22-year-old -- who only started campaigning with intent after completing her final exams in Engineering at the end of May -- didn't need any leeway, producing another clear just over a second slower than Floody to secure runner-up spot ahead of Irish-based Swedish international Stephanie Finetto, on Merlin's Magic.