LAST Saturday’s second leg of this year’s Baileys Horse Feeds flexi-eventing series again saw a large crowd descend on The Meadows Equestrian Centre outside Lurgan where it was another very busy day for organisers, officials and volunteers.

Ballynahinch’s Tom Rowlatt-McCormick, Eventing Ireland’s national Junior champion at EI110 level with Mon Ami Alme, got his 2022 campaign off to an excellent start when winning the Intermediate dressage with a new mount for the season, Skyfall Echo.

Seven combinations appeared before Janet Hall in this highest-rated class of the day and five of them achieved scores over 70%, with Rowlatt-McCormick topping the leaderboard on 78.2. Laura King finished second with Bellisima MKM (76.4), just ahead of Denis Currie on Arodstown Aramis (76.2).

A most attractive 2008 mare by Clover Echo, the Ross Crawford-bred Skyfall Echo has been leased for the season from Co Antrim’s Alex Houston who campaigned the bay up to CCI4*-S level last year. In three EI115 (Open) outings during 2021, they won at Tyrella (4) and were second at Loughanmore to Steven Smith and Galwaybay Echo (also by Clover Echo).

Rowlatt-McCormick, who is facing into AS Level Exams this year, has been working hard at his flatwork with trainer Terry Boon and it was good to see his efforts paying off on Saturday. Unfortunately, Mon Ami Alme, the 14-year-old home-bred Adam IV gelding on whom Tom represented Ireland at last year’s European Junior eventing championships in Sweden, was a bit too fresh on Saturday and propped up the leaderboard on 60%.

Rowlatt-McCormick was double clear in the 1.10m show jumping section on Skyfall Echo and also left all the poles intact on his outing over the 1.20m track with Mon Ami Alme.

Another win fro Currie

Janet Hall also judged the 15-strong Novice class which was won for the second week running by Denis Currie and his 17-year-old Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan gelding, Arodstown Aramis (73.5). Here, Tullymurry’s David O’Connor placed second on Sir Barnabus (72) with retired veterinary surgeon Kerry Parkhill slotting into third on Ted (71.5).

Helen Fletcher’s Sir Barnabus had won a division of the Pre-Novice the previous weekend under O’Connor’s wife Elaine but the change of rider made little difference to the 2009 Cyrano gelding who claimed Section B on Saturday on 75.5%. This 23-runner class was judged by Jacky Reid who had David O’Connor second also on Glenvine Codename R (73.5) while Anna McErlean finished third with her first-round winner, Raford Jack (72).

Twenty-five combinations appeared before Penny Sangster in Section A where she awarded her top score of 75.5% to Dromara’s Ceoladh Crozier riding her mother Christine’s Kildromin Banjo.

Senior rider Leah Knight filled the runner-up position on her EI100 mount Aghagallon (74.5) while 11-year-old Kitty Cullen placed third on Jane Hancock’s Coppenagh Spring Sparrow (74), the 13-year-old grey gelding who the owner’s late daughter Tiggy competed at the 2019 European pony eventing championships.

Kildromin Banjo, an 11-year-old Connemara gelding by Glendine Kestrel, was previously campaigned by Ceoladh’s sister Caoimhe who started off the grey in EI90 (P) company at Tyrella (3) in April 2018 and rounded off their careers together as members of the bronze medal-winning Irish team at last August’s European Pony eventing championships in Poland.

The Patrick Hayes-bred Kildromin Banjo then returned to EI90 (P) level in October to give Ceoladh her first two starts under Eventing Ireland rules. The pair recorded a double clear over Saturday’s 1m cross-country course.

Huge entries

Once again, four arenas were required to deal with the large entry of Intro combinations.

Shane McKeever and his 17-year-old Master Imp gelding KHS Impact narrowly failed to record back-to-back wins in the Penny Sangster-judged Section A where, on a score of 74%, they had to settle for second behind Comber accountant Sophie Cowan and Tempo Quickstep (74.5). Three other combinations recorded scores over 70% in this 16-runner class.

A 10-year-old by Lougherne Quickstep, the winner was bred in Co Fermanagh by Gabriel and Madeleine Tunney out of the Star Kingdom mare Bell Lady. Cowan purchased the grey mare five years ago and, since then, they have been mainly concentrating on working hunter competitions.

Last season, when they completed two EI90 (Amateur) events, finishing fourth at Finvoy (2), the combination ended their campaign at Balmoral where they claimed the reserve title in the small horse working hunter championship.

Only two combinations breeched the 70% barrier in the Jacky Reid-judged Section B where the comfortable winners were Michael McGaffin on Zara McAvoy’s ex-racehorse Ballela To Milan (75) while Claire Ireland had to settle for the runner-up position for the second week running with the 14-year-old palamino gelding, Goin For Gold (71.8).

Ballela To Milan, who goes by the stable name Bruce, is being produced for McAvoy by Julie Donaghy Simpson who last year partnered the 2015 Milan gelding on the showing and working hunter circuits. Previously in the care of last season’s Irish Grand National-winning trainer Dermot McLoughin, the bay was crowned ‘Reserve Supreme Irish Thoroughbred Marketing All Ireland Champion’ last August.

Julie will be sharing the ride on Ballela To Milan this season with Michael who will be in the plate when the horse goes eventing.

In Section C, Janet Hall awarded her only score over 70% to Amy Salmon for her flat work on Consequencial (72.8) who was evented at EI100 (Amateur) level back in 2017 by Alex Grudgings (they were fifth in the national championships) but, in recent seasons, has become better known on the hunting field. Unfortunately, there are no breeding details recorded for the now 18-year-old chesnut gelding on whom Salmon is looking forward to making her EI debut this season.

A winner the previous Saturday with Fanad Romeo, Jenny Lindsay had to settle for second on this occasion with another Connemara stallion, the home-bred Carnakilly Mac Guire (66). This Westside Mirah seven-year-old, who had a busy stud season during 2021, is a former winner of the Clifden green hunter championship.

Lucinda Webb-Graham’s judging of Section D resulted in a tie for second place on 69.5% between Hazel Hilland riding November Kate, a 10-year-old bay mare on whom she competed at four EI80 (T) events last season, and Nikki Cullen on board her similarly aged Rinnen Clover mare Gemstone Ruby with whom she has been a regular competitor in this series, and at unaffiliated events, in recent years.

The comfortable winner however was Gorsehill Charmer (73.3) who was ridden by Gillian Graham for Kristian Floyd. This nine-year-old Hermes de Reve gelding, who is out of a Master Imp mare, was placed at EI90 level in 2019 when campaigned by Jim Tyrrell for Co Wicklow breeder Anne Bannon.

The Baileys Horse Feeds flexi-eventing series, which is run by the Northern Region of Eventing Ireland in association with The Meadows, continues each Saturday until March 5th with points being awarded for attendance as well as performance.