AFFILATED eventing resumed in the Northern Region last Sunday at Hazeldene, where the results in the higher-graded, non-restricted classes were dominated by runners from the Smith brothers’ Gilford yard, while Crossgar’s Sam Forbes recorded a lower-level double.

Officially termed Hazeldene (3), Sunday’s fixture marked the first time in 2024 that Andrew and Laura Napier actually got to welcome competition-oriented Eventing Ireland members to their Co Down venue following two previous attempts.

Then, at just a week’s notice, they had everything in place including picnic benches in the new zone around the first water, where the secretary and scorers could be found, along with food outlets and the ‘Crooked Cocktails’ bar.

While owners, riders and spectators could admire Andrew Napier’s wood-carving skills in the various wooden reptiles and animals as they walked around the cross-country course, riders also had to pay heed to the fences, which came up fast on the undulating, twisting tracks. Fence stewards needed to be at their most attentive once the third phase got underway at 1pm. With the entry numbers lower than would be expected for a scheduled event, the last combination was home around 6pm.

It’s not often we see a one-runner senior class in eventing, but Casey Webb recorded an uncontested victory in the EI115 (Open) on Steven Smith and John Minford’s Irish Sport Horse mare HHF Elegance, who was having her first start since being withdrawn at Ballindenisk last September. The 13-year-old Watermill Swatch bay will be targeted at a 3*-S over the summer.

Smith himself next landed the five-runner EI110 (Open) on Virginia Maguire’s home-bred Handsome Starr, who last started back in August when withdrawn at Blair Castle.

With four show jumping penalties and a similar number for time across the country, the 12-year-old thoroughbred gelding by September Storm completed on a score of 31.3, which left him well clear of his nearest rival, the Alex Houston-partnered Minty Imp (46.2). Connections have no definite plan for Handsome Starr, but will take things as they come.

Double delight

There were nine starters in the EI110 where, with cross-country time penalties, Webb finished first on Ballygreenan Break Point (35.4) and third with Nelgara Lucy Locket (54.6), while Smith slotted into second on Greenhall Gold Dust (43.8).

Alex Houston led after dressage on My Atlantic Encore (22 penalties), who had a fence down show jumping. The Centre Stage mare was retired across the country at the three-part water (fence seven), where Claire Abbott and Kilcoltrim Cooley, who were on 28 following a clear show jumping round, parted company at the first element.

This was a first win at this level for the Traditional ISH gelding Ballygreenan Break Point, whose previous success came in an EI90 at Tyrella last season, when the Pointilliste bay was ridden by Michael McNally. The eight-year-old is owned by Co Tyrone’s Valerie Breen, who bred the winner out of her top show hunter mare Banglestown Imp (by Master Imp), a full-sister to Polly Stockton’s former CCI3* ride, Imperial Trump.

Winning ways

Having narrowly failed to bring up a cross-season, cross-level four-timer when second at Tyrella early last month, Suzanne Hagan and the Dutch Warmblood mare Karolita O got back to winning ways here. This was in the four-runner EI115, where they added 21.1 cross-country time penalties to their winning dressage score (24.8). Owned by Anne Magee and Jane Hancock, the nine-year-old chesnut Firestone mare was partnered by Hagan to win the EI110 national championship at Kilguilkey House last September.

Tom Rowlatt-McCormick withdrew R Ballerina (29.1) after dressage, as they are competing in the CCI3*-S at Millstreet this weekend.

People travelling up from the south to Hazeldene were surprised that, once they passed Dundalk, the weather improved considerably. Their number included commentators Paul Nolan and Peter Quirke who, on arrival, were given their usual well-prepared notes by event secretary, Dora Beacom.

Included among these – and announced as requested – were a welcome-back message to cross-country finisher Raymond Cullen, following a four-month stay in hospital and get well messages to Hollie Smith, who had spent the previous week in hospital with a head injury, and to Tegan White McMorrow, who is recovering from a broken tibia.