TRAMORE’s Heather O’Connor recorded her first victory at EI115 level last Saturday at Lightsource BP Tyrella (2) where she landed the 12-runner Open division with HSH Has It All on whom she finished ninth individually at last year’s European Young Riders’ championships in Sweden.
O’Connor and her 11-year-old Puissance gelding were lying fourth on 28.6 penalties following Rosie Gomes’s judging of the dressage phase and, unlike those ahead of them, they completed on that score. This feat was replicated by the eventual fourth-placed pairing of Lucca Stubington and the unraced thoroughbred Quingenti (30.7).
Ian Cassells picked up 1.2 cross-country time penalties on both of his rides, Kellys Quality, who was narrowly beaten into second on 28.7, and the early pace-setter, Millridge Atlantis, whose total of 30.6 included eight show jumping penalties. Sarah Ennis’s hopes of holding on to second place (on 26.8) with Grantstown Jackson were dashed early on the cross-country course when they didn’t get turned in time for the double of corners on a bending line at four.
O’Connor was on site early, having stayed overnight at Tyrella House with her mother Clodagh. “It could be anything from a four-and-a-half to a five-hour drive so there really was no other option but to go up on Friday,” said the 19-year-old Co Waterford rider who is in her first year studying Equine Science at the University of Limerick.
“I love Tyrella and it was great to get back here as the last time I was here was in 2019 which was the year I started in Juniors with HSH Has It All. My plan is to compete in the three-star-short at Ballindenisk (later this month) and at Millstreet (in early June) and then I hope to be selected once again for the Young Riders’ championships which, this year, are being held in Hartpury.
“I don’t do much with the horse other than event as it’s hard to fit everything in when I’m away at college from Monday to Friday. I’m very lucky that my dressage coach, Nicki Russell, keeps my horses going for me (O’Connor also has a five-year-old full-brother to HSH Has It All) while I get regular coaching in show jumping from Paddy O’Donnell. It’s also great being a member of the high-performance squad as our manager, Sue Shortt, has arranged a good few days’ training with Heike Holstein and Gerry Flynn.
“Finishing on your dressage score, as I did on Saturday, is always nice and it was great to finish ahead of some top senior riders. HSH Has It All can be cheeky sometimes in the dressage phase – he’s a bit of a character – but he loves jumping, especially cross-country. It was a good galloping track on Saturday with a nice few questions like the double of corners (fence 4) in the sand dunes and the two sties to a corner (12) in front of Tyrella House.”
There were 12 starters also in the EI115 where, again, Ian Cassells had to settle for second, this time completing on his Lucinda Webb Graham-awarded dressage score with the consistent Brookwood Supersable (28.2). Here, the all-the-way winner was Sarah Ennis riding Dourough Ferro Class Act, the highly regarded S Creevagh Ferro gelding, owned by her husband Niki Potterton and Wendy Harris, on whom she finished seventh in the CCI2*-L for six-year-olds at Le Lion d’Angers last season.
Another pillar-to-post winner on Saturday was Jodie O’Keeffe who completed on her Coreen Abernethy-awarded dressage score in the EI110 (Open) with Reenmore Duke (28.3). Second in last year’s EI120 national championship, O’Keeffe and her 13-year-old Quicksilber gelding were having their first start since retiring halfway through their CCI3*-S cross-country round at Ballindenisk last September.
Gilford’s Steven Smith notched up his first victory of the 2022 campaign when also leading from start to finish with Lavori (24) in the regular EI110 where, for good measure, he filled the runner-up slot with Lisbane Top Gear (25). For the record, Elizabeth Power, who had competed in England over the previous two weekends, also finished on her first phase score of 25 with Oakland Quality but had to settle for third.
Tessa Westbrook’s winner, a six-year-old gelding by I’m Special de Muze, had made his debut at this level the previous weekend at the Corbett family’s estate, finishing second. The nine-year-old Pacino gelding Lisbane Top Gear, who was competing under Eventing Ireland rules for the first time, has amassed 61 Show Jumping Ireland points under Eric and Harriet Pele.
Thirty-one combinations started in the EI100 where Jackie Reid’s winners of the dressage phase, Elaine O’Connor and Helen Fletcher’s Sir Barnabus (24.5), maintained that position right to the end.
Apart from one combination competing hors concours, O’Connor and the 13-year-old Cyrano gelding were shadowed throughout by Becky Cullen and the eight-year-old Connemara gelding, TBS Inspector Sparrow (27). Two six-year-olds got into the placings here, Loughview Commander (30.8) finishing fifth under Suzanne Hagan, a place ahead of the Stephanie Stammschroer-ridden Brownstown Sansa (31.3).
There was just one refusal and one retirement across the country in this class but three of the 19 starters in the EI90 failed to complete, while another three had stops on course.
The delighted winner was Gemma Goodrich who completed on her first phase score with Norma Wilkinson’s Remember Bea (24.8) who had finished ninth on her EI debut the previous Saturday. The five-year-old Ramiro B mare was bred by Allison Mercer out of the unraced Balla Cove mare, Cove Point.
Michal McGaffin had mixed luck with two horses having their second starts. He lost his hold on the top spot when the ex-racehorse Ballela To Milan had a fence down show jumping for a total of 28.5 but moved up into second on Sharon Cowan’s 2014 home-bred King Of Mourne mare, Rose Of Mourne (25)