AS the international event season hots up, the action moves to Co Cork where the Sema Lease Kilguilkey International Horse Trials is due to kick off this week. Supported for the second year in succession by Richard Ames and Sema Lease, this will be the first of two such fixtures staged by the Dulohery family in the space of four weeks.

As has become the pattern in these testing times, the entries were initially slow but having swelled in the past few days, the final list is very respectable. Reflecting on this, an upbeat Danny Dulohery commented: “It’s all a matter of economics and it’s bound to have an effect. There are also calendar clashes with nations cups, but we have a nice calibre of riders entered, and looking forward to welcoming everyone.”

While the overseas visitors are fewer than usual there will be a notably high-class international flavour. Riders from seven nations hold entries, among which are the Australian silver medallist Kevin McNab, the recent Luhmühlen five-star runner-up Kirsty (neé Johnson) Chabert, and Ballindenisk winner Giovanni Ugolotti. The latter will be accompanied by his Canadian wife Kathryn Robinson, while a new visitor to Irish eventing will be the Moroccan competitor Noor Slaoui. Unusually just three British riders make the journey, although there are many more competing who are currently resident in Ireland. Others to be based on home turf are the American duo of Gillian Beale King and Cornelia Dorr, while Nicole Pearson, who has been a regular team member at the Asian Games represents Hong Kong. Among the remainder is of course Storm O’Connor who flies the flag for South Africa, and also French rider Rachel Rendle.

These riders, together with a strong contingent of home challengers will find plenty to look at out on track. Dulohery has introduced a number of changes across the six courses, and indeed has built over 30 new fences to be unveiled next week. The course will run in the same direction as last year and, always a galloping track, it will now have a new loop to extend the horses further.

Open fields

Looking at the entries, all seven classes appear very open. The feature Horse Sport Ireland CCI3*-L has a field of eight, three of which are ridden by the American jockey Gillian Beale King. Riding for sponsor Richard Ames, Beale King has been on top form in recent weeks, and looks to have a live chance of success with any one of the trio. Standing out among them, Chance Encounter landed a very good win at the same venue two weeks ago, where he was chased to the line by her second ride Ballyvillane OBOS.

Beale King will certainly not have things her own way however, and will face strong opposition from three home challengers namely Ian Cassells (Shanaclough Quality Clover), Steven Smith (Newferry Jagermeister) and Lexi Kilfeather (Lord of the Morning).

From Morocco, Noor Slaoui is double-handed with Cash in Hand and Callista de Maze, and while they have form at the level, the opposition probably looks a little strong for them to make an impact.

As staunch supporters at the venue, Global Sport Horses are the title sponsors in the well filled CCI4*-S which, with 22 runners appears to be a very competitive class. A number look promising, including Giovanni Ugolotti who has an interesting ride in Lark About. Very experienced, the 13-year-old has won two classes this season, but parted company with his rider at the Houghton international last time out. They will be keen to put things right, as will Stephanie Stammschroer and Master Swatch, who before their tumble at Millstreet last month, had led the dressage and jumping. Both will face strong opposition however, and among the remainder to catch the eye are Michael Ryan (TF Kaygraff), who was forced to withdraw at Luhmühlen, as well as Kirsty Chabert who looks fancied with Opposition Aphrodite. Kevin McNab (Miss Pepperpot) is another never to be discounted, while others likely to make an impression could be Adam Haugh with Van Thee Man, Luca Stubington (Quingenti) and of course Gillian Beale King who, again well mounted, rides three likely contenders.

Following the Eventing Ireland CCI2*-L is the Colliers CCIP2*-L, which is staged as the final pony trial. This is always a very tense and absorbing occasion, and with 18 runners due to line up the competition will be tight. All carry good form this season, and any could win, but looking strong on paper is Josh Williamson, who teams up with his Millstreet winner Ardeo Fireman, as well as Rockon Pedro. Also double-handed, 2021 squad member Ben Connors is another likely challenger, along with the consistent Matthew Love.

Away from competition, Michelle and Danny will host a party for riders, sponsors and their connections on Friday evening, while the sponsors and owners will also have a tent dedicated for their use for the duration.

Among the remaining class sponsors are Bretland Construction who are lending their support to the show jumping arenas, CCI3*-S backers DJI Group, Module, (CCI2*-S) and Black Rainbow who give their name to the CCI*Intro.