THE five-star series kicked off in America in April where, firing warning shots for the season ahead, the phenomenal Oliver Townend landed his third win in succession at Lexington. Riding his five-star specialist Ballaghmor Class, bred by the late Noel Hickey, he was closely pursued by second-placed Tim Price (Xavier Faer) with his wife Jonelle in third with Grovine de Reve (ISH).

Much to the disappointment of many, and it has to be said the annoyance of riders, the planned Badminton ‘behind closed doors’ was cancelled within a few weeks of its scheduled running. The was the second year in succession that this showcase was forced to abandon due to the pandemic, and the lateness of the announcement left riders understandably frustrated both for themselves and their owners.

With the Olympic Games looming, and Badminton cancelled, the Irish squad regrouped to plan a campaign. International opportunities were limited but Sarah Ennis, Joseph Murphy and Brian Morrison did make forays to England, where they joined by fellow team contenders Padraig McCarthy, Fred Scala and Austin O’Connor.

Their best results came at Bicton in June, where in a massive CCI4*S class of in excess of 100 starters, O’Connor (Colorado Blue) landed 10th spot leaving Fred Scala (Everon Vivendi) who was also double clear in 12fth. Morrison, Murphy and McCarthy were also creditably placed in the top 30.

Despite the tightening of Covid travel restrictions in Europe, Cathal Daniels and Michael Ryan determinedly made the journey to the CCI5* fixture at Luhmuhlen in June.

The showcase event was sadly reduced to just 24 starters, but it did produce a popular win for young British rider Mollie Summerland aboard Charlie Van Ter Heiden.

Both Daniels and Ryan produced clear rounds in the country, with Daniels and Jo Breheny’s game mare LEB Lias Jewel completing in eighth spot, leaving Ryan to fill 13th place with Barnahowan Cornhill.

Read all the 2021 international reviews here.