IRISH riders ended a strong week in Spain in spectacular fashion as Sligo’s Richard Howley lead the victory lap in the €31,350 Oliva Nova Beach and Golf Resort 1.45m Grand Prix CSI2*. Riding Arlo de Blondel, he left nothing to chance and took home €7,500 for his efforts. Owned by Howley and Sarah Borthwick, the 10-year-old French-bred gelding is by Tlaloc M out of the Kassidi-sired Surprise De Blondel.

A total of 83 combinations lined up for the Grand Prix. The challenging first-round track set by the Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral proved tricky, with 10 pairs clearing their way into the deciding jump-off where six double clears were delivered.

First to go, Marc Bettinger and Undercover Z set the time to beat when they clocked 39.45, which would later see them take fourth place. Howley and Arlo de Blondel (Tialoc M x Kassidi) executed a series of smooth turns and a daring gallop on the last line to stop the clock in 35.58 to take the win. A strong performance from John Whitaker and Unick du Francport saw them deliver a clear in 37.47 which would later see them fill second place. Slotting into third was Koen Vereecke and Kasanova de La Pomme, clear in 37.66. Fifth place belonged to Edwin Smits and Farezzo, clear in 39.93, ahead of Philippe Leoni and Uhlan Okkomut, who stopped the clock in 43.53.

Richard Howley said: “It was a brilliant course, it was big enough with a couple of tricky distances especially the distance to the triple combination. It rode a little bit shorter than it walked and I think that was the main line that caught most of the class out. Thankfully for me, my horse jumps combinations very well and he is very careful. I am delighted with the way he jumped today.

“He is a fantastic horse. I bought him at the end of last year from Michael Whitaker. I am thrilled to have Arlo; I own him together with a very good friend of mine – Sarah Borthwick. She owns half of both of my good horses, Arlo and Chinook. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity to jump a few Nations Cups with this horse. I really want to take the next step with him, because I believe he can do it all.”

Irish feature

In the earlier 1.40m class last Sunday, Irish riders filled three of the top placings in the 1.40m Gold Tour. Some 29 of the 66 starters delivered clears with the top finishers all coming home within the 60-second mark. Best of the trio was Howley who was riding Borthwick’s 10-year-old stallion Fame, delivering a clear in 56.50 for second. Kim Emmen and Cordouan Fontanel clocked the winning time of 54.98. Accounting for third place was Kildare’s Mikey Pender when he kept the poles in their place aboard the Marion Hughes-owned HHS Fortune (ISH), in 56.77. One place behind was Meath’s Alexander Butler with Gaston d’Ecaussinnes, clear in 57.95.

Howley began his weekend on a winning note as he partnered Chinook to victory in last Friday’s 1.45m two-phase class, clear in 30.42. Howley beat off the challenge from Germany’s Richard Vogel and Perry Khr, who also left the poles in place, in 31.14.

Howley also claimed the runner-up spot in the 1.35m Gold Tour with Fame, clear in 28.51. Also in that line-up was Wexford’s Bertram Allen who took seventh place with the seven-year-old Classified (ISH).

Allen was again among the prizes in Friday’s 1.45m, taking fifth place with Giolita, while younger brother Harry finished eighth with Guinness.