FOLLOWING two frustrating cancellations, affiliated eventing at the Corrigan family’s popular venue at Lisgarvan finally got underway last Saturday. Despite the unenviable clash with Badminton, the belated fixture was very well supported with bumper entries and, not for the first time this year, it was the professionals who rose to the top. Vying for the top placings, they shared the main spoils between them and, once again, it was Co Down rider Steven Smith who took the honours in the feature EI115 (Open) class. Teaming up with his new season ride Fleur de Lys, Smith led the field of six from flag fall and, holding the sole sub-30 mark (28.4), he headed Patrick Byrne with the similarly fault-free Boley Maximus (32.2).

Impressive winners at Hillcrest the previous week – again leading from the front - Smith and the Daniel Brown-owned Fleur du Lys will be looking forward to Millstreet in two weeks’ time. With this mare entered in the CCI3*-S and with four others making the journey, Smith has engaged the services of former British international and top dressage trainer Ruth Edge to help him and stable jockey Casey Webb fine tune the dressage.

By Lisgarvan standards – and probably due to the early cancellations - the tracks were fairly straightforward, but in balance were educational. Speaking on behalf of the Smith team, Casey Webb commented: “Not as tough as you would expect to see here at Lisgarvan, but there were lots of educational questions and a great variety of fences. The terrain is also varied, and you come home having learnt a lot about your horse.” Busy throughout, Smith piloted his second ride Newferry Jagermeister into third position, while Webb completed the Gilford yard’s domination when April’s Pacino Time filled fourth.

EI 115

Another pairing to clock up back-to back-wins was the junior duo of Tom Nestor and Cooley Diamond Dancer. Victors in the CCI2*-L at Ballindenisk last month and first-timers at the 1.15m level, the Co Kildare pair led the dressage on 29.2 and, despite lowering a coloured pole, held off the challenge of second placed Ian Cassells with intermediate debutante Greenogue Gigi. This was largely a case of ticking the boxes for Nestor who, aiming for another junior European call up this year, is entered to campaign in the CCI3* at Millstreet next month. Nestor hopes to pick up a further MER qualification at Kilguilkey this weekend, as his father David explains: “Tom has his Leaving Cert. next year, so the aim is to get the qualifications we need this season.” The win capped a good day for the Nestor family, as later in the proceedings young sister Claire partnered Freddie to head the EI100P.

In second spot, Cassells and Lucy McCarthy’s young mare Greenogue Gigi were the only runners to leave the coloured poles intact and, as a result, they finished a distance in front of Patrick Whelan, who tipped two aboard the third placed MBF Silver Bridge. Lucy McCarthy’s seven-year-old mare, Greenogue Gigi has been the bridesmaid in all three runs this season, but on this form a win will not be too far away.

Nicola Ennis and Dawn Arrival on their way to winning the EI110 (O) at Lisgarvan \ Louise O'Brien Photography

EI 110 classes

While sister Sarah was making headlines on the cross-country day at Badminton, Nicola Ennis was enjoying a most successful day at Lisgarvan.

The Co Meath rider was placed in every class she entered, peaking to win the EI110 (O) aboard the thoroughbred Dawn Arrival. Fifth in their opener at Tyrella three weeks earlier, they impressed Jill Spring on the flat to earn a leading mark of 28.0 to which they added just 3.6 for time. “It’s been such a bad spring we’ve only started, so I’ve just kept him at 1.10m just to get him going,” explained Ennis. “We had a great spin, and after the sunshine the going was great.” Having missed their early runs, the pair will now bypass Millstreet in favour of the CCI3*-S at Kilguilkey at the end of June. Chasing all the way, Sian Coleman maintained her opening second spot aboard her new ride MBF Touch Your Toes. Formerly based in the UK with rider Dani Evans, the nine-year-old Out Of Touch-sired gelding moved to Coleman’s Co Cork yard earlier this spring. A smart performer, and almost into the advanced ranks, he is owned by Co Dublin-based Emma and Samantha Wooley, and his return to Ireland will now enable them to see him run more often.

With all eight runners making little of the cross-country test, the remaining placings fell largely in dressage order. The show jumping did have some influence however, and proved costly for the well-placed Caitie Slater who, having lowered two poles, slipped down the order with Derena Super Star. Benefitting, Heidi Hamilton was promoted to third with Michael O’Toole’s four-star ride First Obama.

Co Kilkenny’s John Tilley and Steven Smith have been battling it out all season and, in the special EI 110 (FEI test) sector, it was Tilley who came out on top with brand new ride Wellfields Casino Royale. Formerly owned and ridden by Amy Parsons, the British-bred gelding is now under the ownership of Greek event rider Christina Nathanaial and has been bought for Tilley to ride. Explaining the connection, Tilley’s partner Andrew Williams commented: “I grew up near Amy in Wales, and have always known and loved the horse. When Amy and owner Polly Stephens decided to sell him, we were happy to recommend him to Christina who, based in Greece, as well as the USA and UK, plans to leave him with John for the foreseeable future. Her longer term aim will be to take up the reins herself with the Los Angeles Olympics in mind.”

With all 11 runners returning clear across the country, Steven Smith slotted into second with his Tyrella winner CJO Kann Surprise, from Tilley again with King Edward of Barrells.

With 24 starters, the restricted EI110 was not only the most competitive of the level, but one of the few that was influenced by the cross-country phase. Sharing the dressage lead, both Ian Cassells (Gorsehill Miracle) and Robbie Kearns (Belline Thistle Bethelasttime) picked up 20 penalties out on track and, taking the advantage, Michael McNally moved into pole with Brian Dowley’s Tullibards Mum Said. Completing on his dressage score of 27.8, McNally finished just ahead of Nicola Ennis, who was double clear with the smart seven-year-old Corbally Mountain View. “She’s showing all the qualities to go to the top level,” said McNally of the Tyson-sired mare. “She’s a super mover, is nice in the contact and gets well rewarded. If she’s not sold, she is definitely a candidate for Le Lion D’Angers.” Three points adrift, Godfrey Gibbons filled third riding Liam Lynskey’s DS Conn Boy.


Having totally dominated the placings in the EI100 at Hillcrest the previous week, Daniel Alderson did not quite have his own way in Lisgarvan. He did clock up the win however, and, riding the Margaret Moore-owned and bred Annestown Empress, he opened on a score of 20.3 and was never headed. A nine-year-old daughter of Royal Concorde, she had previously show jumped under Jess Widger and Gemma Phelan, before opening her event account just three weeks ago. Currently on the market, and with great broodmare potential, she is a full-sister to the famous show jumper Annestown (Michael Kelly). Double clears were rare, but producing a smart one, Nicola Ennis filled second with the six-year-old thoroughbred Devils Cape who, as a former inmate of Gordon Elliot’s yard, had five runs under National Hunt rules. Ennis’ speedy round saw her reverse placings with Alannah Kelly, who picked up a costly 4.8 penalties with Cooley Capri Sun.