IAN Cassells maintained his excellent form this season when winning the EI120 at Lightsource BP Tyrella (3) last Saturday on Kellys Quality while also placing third on Millridge Atlantis, two Irish Sport Horse geldings.

Not too surprisingly, Clare Abbott withdrew the Badminton-bound Jewelent following the Faith Ponsonby-judged dressage phase which he led on 25.5 penalties. This left Kellys Quality (26.2) in front heading into cross-country followed by Millridge Atlantis (30.7), the Daniel Brown-ridden Fleur De Lis (31.9), who was to retire on the second phase, and the Joseph Murphy-partnered The Quizmaster (32.1).

No one managed to beat the clock but Kellys Quality was faster than his stable-companion and The Quizmaster which as just as well as he had a fence down show jumping and was two seconds over the time but still held on to score on 38.2. A winner the previous weekend of the EI115 (Open) at Lisgarvan on just his second Irish start, The Quizmaster finished second on 39.7 with Millridge Atlantis placing third on 41.5.

Young Rider Tara Dixon recorded a double clear on Master Smart which, with just 2.8 cross-country penalties, saw them finish fourth (45.9) despite lying second-last after dressage in the 16-runner class.

This was Cassells’s third visit to the Corbett family’s seaside venue this season and he’s due back there this weekend. “What I like about Tyrella is that they change things around all the time,” said the Newcastle, Co Dublin-based rider. “The Advanced track wasn’t massively technical or anything but, with the Badminton horses out, it was perfect for the calibre of horse that they were going to get and you still have to deal with the undulations and hills.

“I have high hopes for Kellys Quality who only started eventing in the middle of 2020 and has hardly ever been out of the placings. He won the three-star-short at Millstreet in June last year and his only other national Advanced start at Kilguilkey in mid-August. We then went to Millstreet for the three-star long but, having led after dressage and cross-country, I had to withdraw as the horse had cut his coronary band. I’m aiming him at the three-star-long at Ballindenisk then I’d hope to move him up to four-star.”

A nine-year-old gelding by the Oldenburg stallion OBOS Quality 004, Kellys Quality was bred by Francis Kelly out of the non-winning Supreme Leader mare Kellys Leader who features the 1989 Grand National winner, Little Polveir, in further removes of her pedigree.

Frustratingly for Joseph Murphy who recorded a double clear inside the time, he also had to settle for second in the 13-strong EI115 on Fighting Spirit (31.9 penalties), another new ride for this season, behind Kilkeel’s Adam Haugh and Carsonstown Cruise whose total of 31.3 included 3.2 cross-country time penalties.

Haugh and the eight-year-old ISH gelding by the Holstein stallion Casdorff won a similar class at the same venue last time out in late March having commenced their 2022 campaign with a second-place finish in the EI110 (Open) at Blackstairs (1) on the first day of the season.

Joanne Jarden judged the dressage phase of that class and also the eight-strong EI115 (Open) where Clare Abbott picked up 20 jumping penalties (and more for time) at the Pepsi Fence (nine) with the first phase winner on 31.2, DHI No Fear, and withdrew Mr Mighty on whom she had been lying second (31.7).

Cork’s Michael Ryan, who also rode at Hillcrest on Sunday, partnered three horses in this class and while he rode a fast clear on his Ballindenisk CCI4*-S winner, Claragh Mountain, on whom he was last after dressage, his total of 38 was only good enough for second behind Kildare’s Zara Nelson and her European Young Riders championship ride, OLS Queen Bee (37.7). This was a first success for Nelson with her mother Michelle’s nine-year-old ISH mare by Luidam on whom she took over the ride towards the end of the 2020 season.

The dry spell leading up to the event meant that a considerable amount of time and effort was required to guarantee good going for Saturday’s fixture. Working with the Northern Region’s cross-country course designer Adam Stevenson, the ground was spiked early in the week by East Down Foxhounds’ joint-Master Pat Turley and his team to take advantage of forecasted showers and was watered repeatedly on Friday.