HILLSBOROUGH Olympian Clare Abbott kindly led one of the two course walks at the Horse Sport Ireland/Eventing Ireland national championships at Lisgarvan House last weekend and was rewarded for her efforts with a double in the two top-graded classes.
Thirteen horses started in the Connolly’s Red Mills EI120 championship, two of them ridden by Sarah Ennis who led after Vanda Stewart and Bernie Webb’s judging of the dressage phase with Woodcourt Garrison (29.1 penalties). Joseph Murphy was lying second on The Quizmaster (32.5), ahead of Abbott on DHI No Fear (32.9), and those two Northern Region riders moved up a place later on Saturday when Woodcourt Garrison had a fence down show jumping.
Among seven others to err over the coloured poles was the Ennis-partnered Grantstown Jackson, who picked up eight additional penalties at this stage. However, on Sunday, this 11-year-old Clover Brigade gelding did his best to negate the effect of those fallen poles when just two seconds over the time across the country to finish third on 43.7.
Abbott and DHI No Fear added 1.2 penalties for time over the fixed fences and found themselves in the lead on 34.1 when Murphy and The Quizmaster only got through the Water (fence 10ab) at the second attempt.
A further 8.8 time penalties on Sunday saw Ennis having to settle for second with Woodcourt Garrison (41.9)
Ennis also led after the John Lyttle and Jillie Rogers-judged dressage phase of the NutriScience EI115 (Open) championship on Saturday with Dourough Ferro Class Act (26.6) but, with eight show jumping penalties and 16.4 for time on the final leg, the Co Meath rider had to settle for eventual fourth.
Here, Abbott was in second spot on her own Mr Mighty (33.1) and with one of just four show jumping clears and the fastest cross-country round (6.4 time penalties), she claimed her second national title on a total of 39.5. Elizabeth Power ended up with just one ride at the weekend but her trip down from Co Meath paid off when she finished second on Oakland Quality who added 7.2 cross-country time penalties to his dressage score of 34.3.
Unlike Abbott and Power, Lucca Stubington picked up four show jumping penalties on Kiltown Watson while 10 cross-country time penalties brought the combination’s three-phase score up to 54.6 and a third-place finish.
Abbott commented first on Mr Mighty, an eight-year-old bay gelding by Gatcombe. “Mr Mighty is a world-class horse in the making and I’m delighted for Cormac and John (McKay) that they have bred another horse who will go to the top level. He is very talented in all three phases so it’s just a matter of giving him plenty of experience. He is going to Ballindenisk for the four-star-short next week and that’s him finished for the season.”
“DHI No Fear absolutely deserved his win,” continued Abbott. “His owner Sarah Riley, who was present with her daughter Izzy, is a great supporter of mine and I’m delighted she has had so much success with him this year. He’s has taken the step-up in work and level in his stride.
“He’s a sensitive horse who has really grown in confidence in 2022 and, being show jumping-bred, he’s had to learn to gallop. I was chuffed with his time on Sunday as I felt we didn’t go at top speed. He’s being aimed at Ballindenisk and Boekelo.
“It’s really great now to have two horses who are capable of joining Jewelent in 2023 as team contenders for the European championships and Paris 2024.
“The event at Lisgarvan was fantastic, I haven’t been there for a long, long time and it’s unrecognisable, they have an international standard course! We are lucky to have what is basically a one-day event venue which sets such a high standard of cross-country. The cross-country course for the EI100 (in which Abbott was sixth on Caltra Classic) was especially good. Many thanks to Clive (Corrigan) and his team as good events are the making of good horses.”