Irish eventing team ready to pounce if any of the big guns misfire
Ireland's Eventers get the equestrian action under way at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro today with a good chance of chasing down the medals.
For the first time in many Olympic cycles the Eventing team manager, Nick Burton, was spoiled for choice in making his selection, and in Clare Abbott (Euro Prince), Jonty Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and Mark Kyle (Jemilia) he has a strong and battle-hardened crew.
Padraig McCarthy (Simon Porloe) is a relative newcomer to the sport but has shown a real flair for it, having previously been a dedicated showjumper.
All the horses passed the first horse inspection yesterday, and there is a very positive vibe around the Irish camp.
Eventing is a three-phase competition similar to a triathlon and begins with two days of dressage before Monday's cross-country phase, and concludes with showjumping on Tuesday.
Dressage has long been the weak chink in the Irish chain, but a lot of effort has gone into addressing that, and the feeling around the Olympic venue is that if the green team can produce four decent tests then the rest better watch out when it comes to the cross-country and showjumping stages.
Because, as Kyle said yesterday, the result will not be decided in the dressage arena.
Cross-country course designer, Frenchman Pierre Michelet, has set them a tough and technical task over very hilly terrain which, according to eventing superstar Michael Jung from Germany, is going to be a major test of fitness.
The 34-year-old is the man they all want to beat and is going to for back-to-back team and individual glory with the same horse that carried him to success four years ago, the 16-year-old gelding Sam.
Kyle is the only member of the Irish team that finished a strong fifth at the London 2012 Games to line out again this time around.
At the time he said that "having three of us in the top 25 on the final afternoon is definitely about our sport in Ireland going in the right direction" and he was right about that.
Four years later the Irish are even more of a force to be reckoned with, and should any of the more fancied sides stumble, they may well be ready to pounce.
McCarthy and Abbott will compete in today's first day of dressage, with Evans and Kyle competing tomorrow.