DEMONSTRATING just why she counts among the world’s best, the unstoppable Laura Collett delivered a masterclass in the feature Horse Sport Ireland CCI4*L.
Riding the German-bred Dacapo, Badminton winner Collett produced a sparkling test, unanimously impressing Ground Jury members Sue Baxter (GBR), David Lee (IRE), and Jane Holderness Roddam (GBR) to earn a leading score of 24.3.
The pair carried a further 2.4 time penalties in the country, before completing a clear four marks ahead of fellow Olympian Tim Price (Coup de Coeur Dudevin) and with Ireland’s Esib Power with Senza Fine filling a fine third.
“It’s so lovely for him to have his moment,” said Collett afterwards. “He and London 52 have grown up together, so he’s tended to be in the shadows. He fractured his pelvis as a seven-year-old and subsequently lost a year, then with Tokyo last season he was a bit on the back burner.
“However, he really came into his own at Aachen last year, and arrived here feeling super confident. He gave me a great ride and galloped to the line.”
Now 13 years old, the Holstein-registered son of Diarado (dam by Canturo) is owned by a syndicate quintet, and was sourced through agent Francesca Pollara eight years ago.
Moving up 10 places, and one of just two to keep his first phase score (31.7) intact, the runner-up spot went to New Zealand world number six Tim Price with the French-bred Coup de Coeur Dudevin. A former ride of Chris Burton, and still in the ownership of his breeder Jean Luis Stauffer, the 10-year-old gelding by Top Gun Semilly put in a very slick and encouraging performance.
“He was initially intended to be Jonelle’s ride, but just proved a bit too big and strong, so she reluctantly gave him to me,” said Price. “He’s a nice horse with a lot of power, and I do think he’s a proper five-star prospect. However, he is only 10, so future plans are fluid.”
Opening on a fifth placed score of 29.00, Elizabeth Power and the mare Senza Fine did the home nation proud. In contention from the outset, the pair progressed to add just 3.2 in the country and, foot- perfect on the final day, were promoted to third.
This was an especially sweet result for Elizabeth, who having retired her brilliant five-star performer Soladoun after Badminton last month really needed a boost. “Timing is everything,” she said afterwards. “It’s no secret that I’m short of top-class horses, and now it’s exciting that I really have something to look forward to. We have been preparing slowly and it’s still been a learning weekend, so this result is better than I ever could have hoped for.”
An attractive mare, the 11-year-old Senza Fine had been previously campaigned by Tim Price but, by his own admittance, the pair never really gelled. In consultation with her sporting owner Therese (Terry) Miller, the mare moved to Power’s Co Meath yard last autumn.
“I have always admired the way Esib rides and thought they would suit each other,” commented the French-based Miller. “Esib felt she has the talent in all three phases, and we have been on the journey together ever since.”
As one of only three to stop the clock within the time, the stylish New Zealander Clarke Johnston filled fourth with Menlo Park, from Bill Levett aboard Sarah Ennis’s former inmate, the exciting Sligo Candy Cane.
Although the first spot was clear cut, the battle for the remaining places went to the line. In second place after dressage, Kevin McNab and Willunga dropped out of contention with time faults in the country, while in third at this stage, Ballindenisk winners Willa Newton and Cock a Doodle Do were unlucky to spring a frangible pin at the final water, nearing home.
With only three combinations making the time allowed, the pace in the country was influential, but so were the fences. Three failed to complete, among which was the 11th placed Jonelle Price with Kilbunny Andy. The Kiwi duo parted company at the second element of the tricky brush corners (8b), a fence that caused problems for the majority of the remaining five who faulted.
All passed the inspections the following morning, although three runners, including the remaining two Irish combinations were withdrawn before the show jumping. One was Louise Bloomer who had produced a super clear with Hollybrook Hotshot, while having picked up a penalty out on track, Alison Holden (O My Balladeer) opted to withdraw.
Standing out among those to catch the eye was Cathal Daniels with the impressive long format debutante CDS Cairnview Romolu. Coming home with just a smattering of time faults the pair completed in seventh and, winners at Ballindenisk the previous week, they look exciting prospects.
Also turning heads, was a young and high class contingent of riders from New Zealand, while at the other end of the experience scale, it was good to see veteran Australian Olympic medallist Clayton Fredericks back in international action in Europe.