WINNER of the 128cm Championship in 2021, Ruben Foley returned to the main arena this year, to take the 138cm crown.

Speaking after the win, Ruben said: “I am delighted to win for the second year, it’s just the best.’’ He explained that his instructions from his brother Jason and his dad Ger was to give it his best and ‘what will be will be’. Ruben celebrated by looking at the Aga Khan and then watched the action in the 128cm ponies.

The sun shone for the first of the pony championships in the main arena on Friday morning. First up was the 138cm riders with 22 combinations putting in their best performance in a bid to take the 2022 title. This year Armagh course designer Aaron McCusker set the course.

First in Senan Reape delivered the first clear with Churchfield Tulla Bluebell and a further seven joined him in the jump-off. McCusker set a fair track which began with the deer fence. Towards the end of the course, a triple (vertical, oxer to vertical) and then right-handed to the red light house fence oxer needed careful riding.

In the jump-off, riders needed to be up on pace at fence 10 and then take a sharp turn right to fence 11, the Saint Bridget’s cross, before galloping to the last oxer with a water tray to the pocket.

First to go with Churchfield Tulla Bluebell, Reape set off at a blistering pace, but a sharp turn to fence 4b saw him come home carrying four faults in a time of 35.63 for seventh place.

Andrea Barry opted for the longer routes at the start with Arcade Eddie, but then took a tight turn to 11 and onto the final water, which saw her deliver the double clear 34.09, for eventual third.

Lauren Adams meant business from the start as she took to the course with Riot del Pegulil. The young Wexford rider opted for a calculated turn to fence four and got a great shot back to fence 11 and a strong gallop to the last saw her set the new target of clear in 30.84, which would later see her take the runner-up spot.

Charlotte McCracken also took the longer route back to 4a and a tight back to 11 with Drumcaughey Diamond. Cheered on to the last, luck was against her as it fell to the floor and they came home with four faults in 31.44 for eventual sixth.

Ruben Foley knew what was required and he maintained a great pace throughout the course aboard Mayfly Green Peter. In particular, he was very fast to fence nine, this matched with a great turn to 11 and then galloping home, saw him take the win clear in 29.85.

Next up with Mayfly Black Pennell, Annie Boland had a tough task to try and catch Foley but she gave it her all, sadly four faults at the Saint Brigid’s Cross fence saw her come home with four faults in 31 seconds for fifth place.

Cian McMunn put in a calculated round with ET Hop De Naelle and it paid off as he came home with nothing to add in a time of 34.83 for eventual fourth.

Williams takes the crown

Next up were the 148cm finalists and they faced a technical course. Although no particular fence caused any problems, the first clear round was delivered by the fifth rider in, and for a time it didn’t look like there would be a jump-off, until Beth Thompson put in a great clear. Following a two way jump-off, Clare’s Coen Williams claimed the 148cm crown with Saxton Freedam.

Delighted with the win, Coen’s mum Paula said: “Coen has won in the main arena before and there is no feeling like it. Between here and the Europeans it will be a year to remember. He does all the work himself and he never needs an alarm clock to get up and look after his animals. He works so hard to get the results and he really deserves it.”

First to go in the jump-off, Williams opted to take a calculated approach with Saxton Freedam, which involved a series of tight lines. He got a good shot from one to two and then on to the oxer at three. He then took the inside line to the next vertical and a great turn to the double at four, before clearing the final oxer, crossing the line in 39.18. Beth also took the inside line to the vertical, but a longer route to the double saw her deliver a double clear in 39.17.

Eoin Brennan looked set to deliver a clear with GCS Daisy Lux, but a check at the Dublin Horse blanks saw the pole fall to the ground and he had to settle as fastest of the four-faulters in 72.17 for third place.

Kian Dore put in a great show of horsemanship aboard Sparkling Lackaghmore Joey, but his hopes of a place in the jump-off were dashed when he faulted at the last fence and crossed the line in 73.80 for eventual fourth.

Annie Boland almost delivered the first clear with Jimtown, but she proved out of luck when faulting at the last, in a time of 74.75 for fifth place. Four faults for Robyn Lee and Mister Jones at the oxer (fence three), in 76.98 saw her fill sixth place.

Meagher clinches victory

Following the Nations Cup win for Ireland, the 128cm pony riders had the support of the happy crowd in the Anglesey stand, as they contested their championship. Taking the title after two brilliant rounds was Thomas Meagher with Sasha.

Speaking after the win, Thomas’ father Pat said: “It’s just a dream come through winning here today.” It was a special win for the Meagher and Boland family, who own Sasha, as the 19-year-old mare returned to competition this year after a serious tendon injury last year.

In total, 18 booked their place in the final and all those qualified certainly gave it their best. The course asked a few questions, in particular the Longines combination at fence five and then the Longines fence nine, which involved a tight turn to the approach. Of the original starters, just five booked their place against the clock.

First to go against the clock, Juliana Nelson and Cumbak Kid proved out of luck when she faulted at the first and despite getting a good shot to fence seven, it also fell to the floor. In the end, a total of eight faults in 40.41 would see her take fifth place.

The first double clear was delivered by Alayna Hawkins and the eight-year-old Ballynacregga Red in a time of 48.32, which saw her take the lead and then eventual third place.

Next up, Zara Sharkey galloped into the arena at a determined pace with Lisboy Black Magic. They took a big jump over fence one and kept it tight throughout the course, in particular to fence seven. A clear in 39.63 saw her set the new target to beat.

Following a great first round, Thomas Meagher returned to the main arena full of determination aboard Sasha. The young rider got a great turn to the Longines double, and later another great turn to fence seven. A daring gallop to the last saw him clock the winning time of 37.91 and in the process, demote Sharkey into the runner-up spot.

Last to go, Padraig Howley knew what he needed to do as he took to the track with Bossinova. However, four faults at the first fence and coming home in 63.88 meant he had to settle for fourth place.

Robbie Sheehan did not get into the jump-off with He’s A Touch Of Magic when faulting at the first fence, but a fast time of 63.88 would prove good enough for sixth place.

Six/seven-year-old Championships

Simmonscourt last Saturday saw packed stands for the 148cm six- and seven-year-old Championship with 24 going to post. Taking his second championship title of the show was Coen Williams. Of the original starters, 12 booked their place in the jump-off and just two delivered double clears.

Second to go in the jump-off, Williams took it on the GBBS Ltd and Olga Doyle-owned Gilton Islots. Williams wasted no time with the six-year-old stallion and got a great turn back to the vertical at four, before negotiating a slick turn to the double.

A good shot to the last line, saw him clock the winning clear in 41.41. Last October, Greg Broderick and his sister Olga invested in this pony stallion, bought from France. The stallion is by Diamant de Semilly out of Tabelle des Islots (Zandor Z).

Emily Moloney opted for the more cautious approach with the Edward and Miriam Moloney-owned six-year-old Lady Crown and it paid off as she was the only other double clear in 44.99 for second.

The penultimate rider to go, Kian Dore, knew he had to give it his all as he took it on with the seven-year-old Milchem Original and he almost had it won, until the last fence fell to the ground, crossing the line in 37.85 for third place.

Gary Dooley and Joe McMahon’s Western Range also beat the time, but four faults at the last in a time of 38.17 saw them slot into fourth place. Sam Widger set off strong with Poynstown Little Angel, but his decision to take the inside line to the double cost him as the back bar fell to the ground, crossing the line in 39.05 for fifth place.

Anna White had to settle for sixth place with the seven-year-old Tankardstown Dreamer, when they came home with four faults in 39.96.

Popular new class

New to the schedule were the 138cm and 128cm six- and seven-year-old classes, sponsored by Horse Sport Ireland, which proved popular with spectators on Thursday (photos on 84-85).

In the 138cm division, Ella Rush and the six-year-old Shadow Dash took the inaugural win. The pair were awarded a total of 134 points by judges James Davenport and Angelie von Essen. Of those points, 64 points for jumping, 36 for future potential and 34 for riding.

Taking the runner-up prize was Alayna Hawkins and Ballyduff Lad (6yo) when finishing on 129. Third place was occupied by Ryan Horgan and Take Off Van Prinseveld (7yo) on 63 points. Accounting for fourth place was Leon Van Cauwenberge and Tullaree Casanova (6yo) on 125.

There was more to celebrate for the Rush family as Harry Rush and Zenzi Boy van Sundance (6yo) took fifth place on 62 points, ahead of Jack Kent and Grantstown All Action (6yo), finishing on 117 points.

Win for Hawkins

A great first appearance in Dublin for Alayna Hawkins was crowned by victory in the six/seven-year-old 128cm division when she and Carraghy Apollo (6yo) were awarded 130 points. Of those points, 60 points were awarded for jumping, 35 for potential, and 35 for riding.

Charlie Flynn and Kilcreene Granite (7yo) followed closely behind on 126 points, ahead of Mollie Russel and Sugar Dolly (6yo) on 121 points. Just one point separated the next placing as Liam Concannon and Creevagh Pringles (6yo) were awarded 120 points, ahead of Kate Hurley and Brookhall Elizabeth (6yo) on 116 points. Completing the top six was Cara Garrity on Goldie Locks II (7yo) on 114 points.