REIGNING National Champion Kevin Gallagher got his defence of the title off to a strong start when winning the opening round of the Coolmore/Showjumping Ireland Premier Series at Portmore last Sunday.
Riding BP Hybernia, Gallagher was one of just two double clears from a field of 38 starters over the Rafael Suarez designed 1.50m course, to claim the lion’s share of the £15,000 on offer.
Gallagher has just recently returned to Ireland after spending the winter in Wellington, Florida with the Ballypatrick team riding for Charlotte Jacobs’ North Star Sporthorses.
Speaking after the win, he said: “I am delighted to win the opening round of the Coolmore/Showjumping Ireland Premier Series. It was a very well built course. Rafael is always very technical and the time allowed was tight, it caused a big challenge. There was a lot of top combinations on the start list so he had to build a challenging course.
“There were four horses in the jump-off; I was third to go, Cian (O’ Connor) was already clear so I knew I had to be fast. The horse is naturally careful so I got a good canter up to the first jump and then did eight strides to number two. The horse was very neat back to the proceeding oxer, he jumped the double very well. He is very careful and I took a chance down to the last fence and trusted him to jump it.
“He has been very successful here, Portmore is a lucky place for us. We are really looking forward to getting back on grass for the next leg at Barnadown next week.”
Owned by GBBS Int LTD and bred by Dr Noel Cawley, BP Hybernia is 12-year-old gelding is by Flexible and out of Ballinakill Clover (Clover Hill). The gelding claimed the 2019 Premier Series at the venue under the command of Greg Broderick.
There was a strong turnout for the first of five legs of the competition which is sponsored for the first time by Coolmore. Just four of the 38 were able to keep a clear sheet and stay inside the time allowed of 79 seconds. Four combinations were denied a place against the clock when picking up a single time fault despite clearing all the fences.
First to go in the jump-off was three-time Olympian Cian O’Connor aboard Susan Magnier’s newest horse, C Vier 2. The pair set the standard with a clear in 38.36 seconds. It was a first outing on Irish soil for the 14-year-old gelding who was last seen at the FEI World Cup Final I Leipzig with Germany’s David Will where he finished sixth.
Last year, the 14-year-old Cardento gelding was part of the Germany team that won silver at the Longines FEI Jumping European championships in Riesenbeck, where they also finished in individual seventh. Under Will, C Vier also won the five-star Rolex Grand Prix of Rome last year.
Young rider Niamh McEvoy (18) delivered a clear round first time out with Templepatrick Welcome Limmerick, but her hopes of a win were dashed when, in the second round, she had the first fence on the floor. In the end, four faults in a time of 40.46 would prove good enough for fourth place and the young rider prize on the day. Owned by Robin Bingham, the 12-year-old mare is by Limerick out of the Lux Z-sired Go Lucky. She was bred by Dorothea Wilson.
Negotiating a tight line
O’Connor’s lead held only temporarily as third to go, Kevin Gallagher shaved two seconds off the target with BP Hybernia. Gallagher meant business from the start, negotiating a tight line from fence two to three, matched with a sharp turn back to the double. A strong pace to the last saw him set the winning time of 36.36.
Last year’s National Grand Prix Champion, Galway’s Tim MacDonagh had his eye on the win as he took to the course with Hollypark Galloway, but four faults at the vertical after the double in a time of 39.66 would mean a third place finish for this combination.
Bred by John McCann and owned by Jackie Lee, Hollypark Galloway is a 12-year-old gelding by Castlelawn Galloway out of Whitestown Diamond (Diamond Lad). MacDonagh bought Hollypark Galway as a foal and has produced him through the ranks.
With his second mount, the hugely promising nine-year-old stallion Taj Mahal, Cian O’Connor slotted into fifth with a time fault in round one.
Also owned by Susan Magnier and bred by Giel Van Erik, Taj Mahal (Emerald Van ‘T Ruytershof) has a superb start to the year in the international classes in Florida.
Also falling victim to the time allowed in the first round was Aidan Killeen and Inlaws Orinoco. The combination’s time of 79.97 would later prove good enough for sixth place.
Owned by Prime Equipment LTD and bred by Michael Byrne, the 10-year-old gelding is by Harlequin Du Carel out of Vieuwerke.
Two more time faulters finished seventh and eighth. Comdt Geoff Curran was seventh with the Minster For Defence’s Kilrue (Balout Du Rouet x Beach Ball), bred by Stacey Babes, while Adam Carey took eighth with Phillip Carey’s 12-year-old French-bred gelding Quebello D.