EVENTING supporters are in for a real treat next week, as Ireland, and specifically Millstreet, welcomes its biggest international entry post pandemic.

Attracting an array of overseas entries, which reads like a Who’s Who of eventing, the field includes representations from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and the United States of America. Among these are a host of Olympic riders, headed by Britain’s recent Badminton winner Laura Collett.

Once again, the promise of Mike Etherington-Smith’s challenging courses paired with the venue’s outstanding facilities have lured the sports hierarchy and it is a compliment to the entire Duggan family that this showcase has escalated into such an outstanding success.

It is now a firm favourite with riders across the world, leading director Thomas Duggan to comment: “It’s great that from an attendance point of view at least, we seem finally to be finished with Covid and riders are beginning to travel. That said, Brexit will not go away but people are getting used to it and working accordingly.”

Duggan went on to confirm that the weather has been very favourable which has made the ground preparations so much easier. He also spoke of his delight at the uptake of entries, and especially in the long format classes. “The entries are surprising. We have never had so many in the long formats before.”

Another numerical increase, and this time to the general population of the Green Glens Arena, has been the arrival of a 300-strong contingent of visitors from Ukraine. Now well settled in the town, with the children attending schools, and others finding work, the families are housed in the main indoor arena, which unrecognisable from its normal use, now contains 90 purpose-built pods, consisting of two bedrooms and a sitting room apiece.

In a different world entirely, and back out on the cross-country track, course designer Mike Etherington-Smith will run the courses in the same direction as last year, with a number of new fences and combinations. The going is reported to be good, and with an anticipated favourable forecast, all bodes well.

Looking again at the list of entries, and Laura Collett aside, there are a host of former and current Olympic riders taking part. Among these are the top Kiwi couple, Tim and Jonelle Price, Australia’s Tokyo silver medal-winning duo Kevin McNab and Andrew Hoy, as well Athens’ medallist Clayton Fredericks. Brazilian team rider Marcello Tosi makes his Millstreet debut, while Ryuzu Kitajima from Japan undertakes his second visit to Ireland in the space of a few weeks.

Challenging, and spearheading the home side is Olympian and former European bronze medallist Cathal Daniels, as well as Aoife Clarke, Sarah Ennis, Joseph Murphy, Michael and Patricia Ryan and Sam Watson.

Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua, pictured here in the CCI4*-S, Section G, Chatsworth International Horse Trials 2022, will be among the home combinatoins at Millstreet next week \ Nigel Goddard

Class choice

It is the wide range of classes on offer at Millstreet that helps to make the venue such a lure for these overseas riders, and with the prospect of travelling with a full lorry load, they make the trip worthwhile.

This year’s schedule delivers the usual long and short format classes for all levels, and is boosted by the prestigious and highly competitive CCI2* for six and seven-year-olds. Staying with the young horses, and as an ideal selling showcase, Millstreet also offers performance Discovery classes for both the four and the five-year olds. The pony riders are well catered for too, and keen to make an impression on the selectors, a strong field will line up for the CCI2*P.

The line-up in the feature CCI4*L is both impressive and open, and will be a hard one to call. Among the obvious favourites will be the experienced partnership of Laura Collett and the German-bred Dacapo, but there are many that could spring a surprise.

From Japan, Ryuzo Kitajima rides the hugely experienced world games horse Cekatinka, who was runner-up in the equivalent class here in 2019. Never to be discounted, Tim Price teams up with level rookie Coup de Coeur Dudevin, while his wife Jonelle rides the up and-coming Irish-bred Kilbunny Andy.

Somewhat of an unknown quantity on these shores, fellow New Zealander Clarke Johnstone is spending his first season in Europe, and clocked up a good win at Rockingham last weekend with Menlo Park. Yet another antipodean, Kevin McNab steps up to the long format with Willunga, but this Irish-bred is not to be discounted and, as dual winner at the venue, he was the runner-up in the short format equivalent here last year.

From Britain, recent Ballindenisk victors Willa Newton and Cock A Doodle Doo will be out for the double, while of the four Irish runners, Cathal Daniels could turn heads with his Ballindenisk advanced winner CDS Cairnview Romolu.

In the CCI4*S, the field swells further, so that 32 runners are scheduled to go to post. In contrast to the long format, the bulk of these are Irish, leaving just six from overseas. Of those, Jonelle Price looks interesting with the veteran five-star campaigner Faerie Dianimo, but she will face fierce opposition from a competitive home contingent that includes Cathal Daniels with Rioghan Rua and Shannondale Mari. Sarah Ennis, Sam Watson, Michael Ryan and Aoife Clarke also look well mounted, but once again it is a truly open field.

For the purists, the CCYH2*-S for six and seven-year olds is one of the most absorbing classes of the weekend. With the Le Lion d’Angers selectors assessing early season form, it has become one of the pointers for the autumn championships, and this year there is an especially solid collection. Any of the 23 contestants could be in with a shout, but the eye is initially drawn to British visitors Laura Collett, Sam Ecroyd and Emily King.

All are mounted on highly rated Irish-breds, while from the home side there are a host with winning form. Sarah Ennis probably stands out with Diamond Fusion and Heritage Stellor Laccato, but equally so do Camilla Speirs, Patrick Whelan, Joseph Murphy, Meabh Bolger and Fraser Duffy.

The busy timetable for the weekend will be published both on the Eventing Ireland and the Millstreet websites, but broadly the bulk of the long format classes will run across the country on Saturday and show jumping on Sunday, while the short classes will do so in reverse.

Adding to the week, the young horse classes for four and five-year-olds will take place over two phases, the first on Saturday evening followed by the final at 8am the next morning.

The scene is set – let the action begin!