IRELAND’s para dressage riders got their season off to a fine start at the CPEDI in Addington, Britain, earlier this week, with four victories and a number of placings.
Double world bronze medallist Michael Murphy won three times at the venue and scored a new personal best with his championship horse Cleverboy, a 16-year-old gelding owned by the rider and his parents Sue and John Murphy, Bronte Watson and Elder Klatzko.
The Grade I rider’s first win came in Tuesday’s three-star Para Grand Prix A where he scored 75.375% to win ahead of Singapore’s Laurentia Tan’s with Hickstead (73.375). From six starters Murphy also slotted into third place with his second mount, his own 12-year-old gelding Dark Diamond, on a score of 72%.
The following day, Murphy secured the same placing in the Grade I Grand Prix B, again winning with Cleverboy, this time on a new personal best score of 78.333%. The judge at C rewarded the pair with 80.833. Dark Diamond finished third on 73.292.
In Thursday’s Freestyle, Murphy was delighted to score 81.087 which came close to a personal best (82.222) set at Hartpury in July 2021.
Speaking after his wins, Murphy said: “It was the first time out this year and just really good to be back out, it was all I could think about over the winter time. We put in a lot of work over the winter for this year and it paid off earlier than we were expecting.
“Cleverboy is just an absolute dream, I am very grateful to Bronte for giving me the ride and to my trainer Elder Klatzko for all the training at home. We have been a partnership for a few years now and we really understand each other, we are speaking each other’s language now. I am very lucky.”
On the scores achieved, Murphy added: “It is always surreal to go over 80%. It doesn’t happen very often so we have to appreciate it and try to do it again. Every day he felt better this week so that is always the aim.”
Murphy, who works full-time during the week and rides only at the weekend, is aiming for the European Championships this year and has his eyes set on more medals. “There are two aims for the year: to get that team qualification for the Paris 2024 Paralympics and to try to medal at the Europeans, so I have to keep working hard.”
An Irish team is not yet qualified for Paris, but Murphy said: “We got a really good team score in Addington towards Paris qualification which was important. There are two routes to qualification – either by qualifying at the Europeans or by the team ranking list and we are going for both.”
Kate Kerr-Horan also scored three wins at the venue in the Grade III ranks with Broomfield Farm’s 12-year-old mare Serafina T. Although she was unopposed in all three classes, her score of 68.200%, 69.400 and 68.374 were important for the overall team score.
British-based Tamsin Addison finished third in the Grade V Grand Prix on her own nine-year-old gelding Jaguar. Four started in the class and Addison scored 65.769% on her first international outing with the horse. Britain’s Charlotte Cundall claimed victory with F J Veyron (71.513). The pair were also third in the Grand Prix B and runner-up in the two-runner Freestyle after scoring 69.500 behind Cundall (74.880). Unopposed, Addison won the Grade V Intermediate classes with the nine-year-old gelding Lissau’s Decco.
Another Irish winner was Heather Lemmon, unopposed in the Grade II Intermediate classes, with the grey 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse Ladychapel Narnia, whose breeding is not recorded.
On their first international start, Jessica McKenna and Davidoff 188 saw off four competitors to win both Grade III Intermediate classes and the Freestyle, where they scored their top marks of 69.489.