WHAT a year this has been for Kildare’s Ben Connors and the Connemara gelding Cornafest Fred.
Last month, for the second year in succession, they won individual silver at the European pony eventing championships in Strzegom, Poland and were members of Ireland’s gold medal-winning team. Last weekend, the combination stamped their authority on the local scene when winning the Jomiluti EI110 (P) national championship.
Each phase of the class, which was contested by 12 combinations, had its effect on the result. Judges John Lyttle and Jillie Rogers had Oleana Cowan and Ballylee Roller (27.3) at the top of the leaderboard after dressage but they were closely followed by Connors and Cornafest Fred (27.4) and Molly O’Connor with Coolnaleen Rebel (27.8).
Matthew Love, who was also on that gold medal-winning team but with Lucky For Some, was on a score of 30 after the flatwork phase on Cloughreagh Charlie but, by day’s end, he had taken the lead having recorded the only clear round over the Michael Doyle-built show jumping track. Connors had just the one down but both Cowan and O’Connor saw their hopes of victory fade away with 12 penalties apiece.
Most disappointingly for Love, he was four seconds over the time across the country on Sunday so he and Cloughreagh Charlie had to settle for second on 31.6 as Connors and the nine-year-old Gwennic de Goariva gelding Cornafest Fred, who is owned by the rider’s parents Michelle Nelson and Kieran Connors, narrowly claimed the championship on 31.4.
The other two pony titles went to combinations from the Northern Region. Despite four show jumping penalties with her mother Donna’s Greylands Diamond Girl, Newcastle’s Alex O’Hare brought up a hat trick when recording a comfortable victory in the the Equipe Saddles EI100 (P) national championship. She won on a total of 29, ahead of the home-based Kate Corrigan who also left a pole on the ground on Saturday with Fortane Silver Fox (34.8).
Greylands Diamond Girl is a 12-year-old bay mare who was bred at the Greylands Stud in Wales. She is by the Abraham stallion Greylands Amosis out of Diamond Clover (by Coevers Diamond Boy).
There were 22 starters in the Amerigo Saddles EI90 (P) championship but here the result is easily described as Erin McClernon from Carrickfergus recorded a wide-margin success on her dressage score (24.1) with her mother Deneen’s 11-year-old chesnut gelding Sundance III. With four show jumping penalties, Ciara O’Connor finished second on Ashwood Buachaill (32.3).