TIM MacDonagh shot to the equal top of the leaderboard after winning the third round of the Coolmore/SJI Premier Series in Balmoral last Sunday aboard Hollypark Galloway.
Offering a prize fund of €15,000 the class attracted 39 starters who battled it out over the 1.50m Colm Quinn-designed track. With qualification for the international classes at the five-star Dublin Horse Show on the line, the class attracted some big international names like British-based Anthony Condon who finished seventh SFS Vincomte.
Speaking after the victory MacDonagh said: “I’m delighted to win the Premier Grand Prix with Hollypark Galloway here today. This is our third Premier this year and he’s been improving at each one. He was third in Portmore and had an unlucky fence down in Barnadown but he came in today and was in super form.
“We bought him as a foal in Cavan and I’ve had him the whole way through. He’s been very good to me over the past few years and we’ve had some terrific results. We won the National Grand Prix league last year and since he’s come back into work this year he has just been better and better every time he goes out.
“I was fourth to go in the jump-off and I watched Mikey go. I decided to overshoot the first fence a bit to get a better turn back after. I got a nice forward shot to the next oxer and then I knew it was 10 strides to the next fence.
“I thought I was a little slow after that but then when he landed after the vertical he really got his gallop going and got the seven strides to the next; it was a long way on the seven and he went disunited but he still managed to jump it. He took me down to the last fence and I was lucky to get over it. I’m delighted with the horse, he just jumped super.
“I love this show. I think that this is one of the best arenas in Ireland. It’s big and open and really suits my horse; he has a big stride and it allows him to open up and be led down to the fences.
“The aim is to get into the internationals in Dublin; the top two at the end of the series earn their qualification. This is a fantastic series. It allows us to compete at a level that prepares us for the two and three-star competitions away and gets our horses comfortable with competing at 1.50m. I’m going to go to Tattersalls in a couple of weeks and then to Mullingar and hopefully get some good results.
“We have Dublin coming up and hopefully we may get into that and then Millstreet so a busy few weeks ahead.”
Just six of the initial 39 combinations produced a fault-free first round to progress to the jump-off.
Mikey Pender was a pathfinder on his first mount, the Bravo Hughes-owned French-bred eight-year-old gelding Electra des Premices. They produced a second clear in a time of 40.16 which would leave them in eventual fourth place.
Next to go Lt James White, riding the Minister for Defences Hawthorn Hill (Cardento x Limmerick), also left all the fences intact and in a faster time of 39.67 for eventual third place.
Another from the army’s string, Kilrue (Balou Du Rouet x Beach Ball) with Comdt Geoff Curran aboard were third in. A fault at the first part of the double cost them four faults and they had to settle for sixth place.
MacDonagh was next riding his mother Jackie Lee’s 12-year-old gelding Hollypark Galloway (Castlelawn Galloway x Diamond Lad). A clear round in 37.66 shot them into the lead, a position they would hold onto throughout and see them claim the top prize and the Giltspur Trophy.
Nicole Kershaw and Lisa Rosbotham’s Belgian-bred Lotus Van’t Nachtgalehof were the penultimate pair in. Both horse and rider were competing in their first ever 1.50m class. A single fence down saw them finish in fifth place, but added to Kershaw points tally and it, combined with a win in the 1.35m, two wins in the 1.20m, a fifth in the 1.40m and a second and third in the 1.30m, meant that she took the Leading Lady Rider title at the show.
Last to go was Pender and his second mount, Bravo Hughes Ltd’s home-bred mare HHS Los Angeles (Le Roi x Cavalier Royale). A second clear from them in a time of 38.05 meant they captured the runner-up spot.
Anthony Condon was caught out by the clock in the first round with SFS Vincomte and had to settle for seventh place, getting his first points on the board in the series. British international Sameh El Dahan was the fastest four-faulter in eighth place with WKD Aimez Moi.
Mikey Pender (HHS Los Angeles) and Tim MacDonagh (Hollypark Galloway) are top of the leaderboard on 18 points ahead of Niamh McEvoy and Templepatrick Welcome Limmerick on 13 points in third. The third placed combination are representing Ireland at the Junior European Championships this week in Oliva and therefore did not compete in Balmoral.
The penultimate round of the Coolmore/SJI Premier series takes place next Sunday, July 24th at the Tattersalls Horse Show.