A YEAR on from making her Irish debut at Punchestown, Belline Equestrian’s stable jockey, Gillian Beale King, returned to the Co Kildare venue last Sunday when she again landed the EI110 (Open).

In 2021, the United States international made a huge impression as she not only won the 12-runner class with Derena Super Star (on 16.7 penalties) but she also finished second and third on RCA Royal Mist and Ballyvillane OBOS respectively.

The last-named subsequently finished third and second in two seven and eight-year-old EI115 classes before having an early end to his season following his second-place finish in the CCI2*-L at Kilguilkey House in late June, an event sponsored by his owner, Richard Ames, through Sema Lease.

Ballyvillane OBOS made his first appearance since then last Sunday when he won the 18-runner EI110 (Open) on his winning dressage score (26 penalties) ahead of the Louise Kennedy-partnered Eromenom JJ whose total of 29.9 included 3.6 cross-country time penalties.

“It was extra special to go back to Punchestown where, a year ago, I rode for the first time in Ireland and had such a wonderful result,” said Beale King.

“I was really delighted to win on this horse, who had the latter half of last year off, and he, like all of our upper level horses, will be heading to Millstreet.

“It was a gorgeous day and Punchestown is such a wonderful place! The terrain is just fabulous and it’s great to gallop alongside the racetrack. I thought the cross-country tracks were solid enough with some good questions, especially in the EI100.”

Beale King had four rides in that 1m class. She finished third with KIEF Amazing Marco while she was eliminated with Belline Castle Fifty Seven who was very green from the start of his cross-country round. Following a mix-up with her numbers, she had to go hors concours with Belline Rock Trend and Belline Gucci.

“It was a bit annoying but they were both clear inside the time across the country, which was great,” concluded the rider.

Good ground

Following some welcome rain on Friday, competitors were happy with the going on the cross-country course with event secretary Orla O’Neill commenting: “It was even softer in places than we thought it would be.

“Between ourselves and the Kildare Pony Club, we are trying to keep things right and Mark Donovan, who is local, is doing an excellent job looking after the ground work.”

This year, the committee who run the Eventing Ireland one-days at Punchestown appointed Adam Stevenson as course builder. Having previously committed himself to an FEI course in Hungary, Stevenson wasn’t on-site on Sunday but the tracks he designed posed plenty of questions at all three levels.

Show jumping, over one of the new sets of fences commissioned by EI, took place on grass and this phase too had its effect on the results.

As at Hazeldene the previous day, there was a disappointing entry and while this resulted in a very relaxing day in beautiful sunshine, low entry numbers at affiliated events are becoming a worrying trend.