TRADITIONALLY one of the last events of the calendar year, and far too often a casualty of the weather, it was good to see Grove running under perfect conditions last Sunday.

On a wonderful Indian summer day, well over 200 runners went to post at this popular and long-established fixture which, as always, was smoothly run by host Rosemary Ponsonby and her efficient team. Ponsonby paid credit to these voluntary helpers, saying: “It is all simply not possible without them.”

One omission to this year’s schedule was the staging of the EI 115 classes. This was largely due to the time constraints of course designers Allen and Paul Brady and, while the sectors were missed, their absence enabled the Bradys to utilise more materials for the remaining classes.

Another difference was a variation to the route, which worked well and spread the questions. The EI 110 tracks were considered generally straightforward, although the skinny in the final water three from home proved quite a test. The vast majority of the retirements and eliminations occurred here, and although the fence was certainly a tricky question for less experienced horses or/and riders, it rode fluently for the remainder.

Back from one of his many globe-trotting commentating trips, the informative Chris Ryan was behind the microphone, assisted by the equally knowledgeable Clare Ryan. Both add considerably to the flow of the day, although with starters initially appearing sporadically, their job was not easy at the beginning.

This was largely to do with the early cross-country start, and while this is much appreciated, some riders were still involved in the show jumping.

Seasonal hat-trick

As one of a sizeable, and indeed successful contingent from the northern region, Ella Boyle landed a seasonal hat-trick to win the EI 110 (O) aboard her own Grafenstoltz Distinction.

Although the pair had not run since winning at Loughanmore in August, they led the dressage by over seven marks, and despite adding time faults, proceeded to head second-placed Colin Halliday aboard the Le Lion d’Angers-bound seven-year-old GHS Calexio. As the only one of the starting quintet to come home within the time, Patrick Whelan finished in third spot with Denis Finch Hatton.

With 23 runners, the restricted division was far more competitive, but with a considerable number of riders faulting, the top spot was up for grabs. With the aforementioned water complex accounting for the majority of those who erred, six combinations picked up jumping penalties, while a further five walked home.

Surprisingly these included the first phase leaders Ian Cassells and level first timer Gorsehill Miracle, as well as the well-placed Cathal Daniels with his second ride Tullibards You Make Me Feel.

Daniels soon made amends however, as following an equally influential show jumping phase, he landed the top spot with his sister Regina’s Diplomacy Boy.

As the only pairing to record a completely clean sheet, he maintained his opening advantage over Michael Ryan with Ann O’Grady’s 1.10m first timer Ballingowan Merit, from Neilus O’Donoghue who delivered a polished, fast round aboard Molly O’Neill’s Muckridge Quick Star.

The winner, who was bought by the Daniels family as yearling, is a 10-year-old son of Waldo Van Dungen (dam by Crannagh Hero). “My sister Regina produced him before I took over the ride last year,” said Daniels.

“The idea has always been to aim him as a junior/young rider’s horse, but because he’s our own he’s probably been a bit underexposed and only started eventing last year. So, I was delighted for him to get the win, and finish the season on a good note.”