JOE Conway finally lifted a national title at the Connolly’s Red Mills-sponsored AIRC Show Jumping Championships after almost 20 years of trying.

The Kilrainy member won the Connolly’s Red Mills RC 80 Championship after a five-way jump-off at Mullingar Equestrian in Co Westmeath last Sunday.

Riding Prospect Cruise, a 21-year-old grey gelding, Conway recorded one of four clear rounds in the jump-off but his time of 59.83 gave the Tullamore resident the red rosette after he was closest to the optimum time of 72 seconds.

It was a narrow win for Conway with just 0.32 seconds separating him from Emma Reynolds who took the runner-up spot on The Dromahaire Dodger for Lakelands.

Conway was delighted with his win saying: “I have been competing in AIRC competitions for almost 20 years and this is my first national success so it’s been a long wait but this makes it all the more special for me.

“Leading up to the Championships, I competed in the National Hunter Trials and the Festival and many regional shows but I gave my horse, Prospect Cruise, a short break after the Festival and he came back fresh and ready to go.

“The Championships were so well organised, it went seamlessly for us from beginning to end. Thanks to everyone for an unforgettable day,” he added.

At the championships, riders had to jump two rounds over two different tracks with those equal on penalties for first place, jumping-off for the honours.

First attempt

Anouska Rickard claimed the Connolly’s Red Mills RC 70 title after a four-way jump-off. It was the Oakleaf rider’s first time to win at the championships at her first attempt after Stunning Sasha, a 16-year-old skewbald mare, stopped the clock just 4.30 seconds off the target of 75.

It was a tight affair as Monica Hegarty was just 0.08 seconds adrift on Lucky’s Girl in second place for Castle Carraig for the second year in-a-row.

Rickard was thrilled with her win, commenting: “I’m still pinching myself after the win to make sure it happened. Sasha was very quiet in the warm-up arena but she lit up when we went into the arena and gave me a fantastic clear. She jumped her little hooves off for me in the jump-off and gave me a fantastic clear jump off.

“I’m not ashamed to say it was a very emotional win for me as she is just an amazing little mare and gave me her all. It’s the hardest competition we’ve ever done with different courses and arenas all in the one day and our first ever jump off. It was brilliant,” she added.

The Benbulben club is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure at these championships and this year was no different with the club taking home two of the titles on offer.

Their first came in the Connolly’s Red Mills RC 110 and RC 120 division where Fiona Tansey came out on top after a four-way jump-off. The Sligo-based rider, who has been progressing up the ranks, jumped the only clear round over the reduced track on her 12-year-old bay mare, Talbots Lass.

Jessica Healy was next best after the Thomastown and District rider was fastest of the four-faulters on Barrettstown Close Shave with a time of 50.05.

Tansey, was thrilled with her win and said afterwards: “Although my mare was in good form I didn’t go with any real expectation of such success in light of the extremely high standard of competition in the class. The tracks rode super and she was as careful as ever for me, I’m over the moon to have secured the win.”

Stephanie Forde and Merlins Vixen, winners of the RC100 championship at the AIRC Show Jumping Championships at Mullingar Equestrian \ Laurence Dunne

Benbulben success

Elsewhere, the Sligo-based club also won the Connolly’s Red Mills RC 90 championship where five of 38 starters made it through to the jump-off but the spoils went to Rachel Burke on Rookery Kleo.

The Collooney resident was quickest of the three clear rounds over the shortened track to earn the title.

Her 12-year-old bay mare crossed the line in a time of 40.38 which gave Burke over 2.5 seconds to spare over her fellow clubmate, Therese Anderson, who picked up the runner-up spot on Killian Boy.

From 42 riders who contested the Connolly’s Red Mills RC 100 division, 10 made it through to the jump-off after the two rounds of jumping.

Less than one second divided the top two places in what was a highly competitive contest with Stephanie Forde taking victory on the 11-year-old chesnut mare, Merlins Vixen.

The Corrib rider was clear in a time of 41.95 which was just enough to land the title ahead of Coole Lane’s Leonard Reamsbottom who previously on Lightening Spirit in 42.51 was also clear over the reduced track. Reamsbottom had previously won the title in 2021.

Carol Mulvihill’s four-year-old bay gelding, Heigh Ho Troy, won the Connolly’s Red Mills Young Horse competition for Mosstown. Mulvihill finished fastest of the four-faulters to claim the spoils in a time of 80.34. This gave the Athlone resident a narrow win over Laura Kyne who was just 0.08 seconds adrift on Barnaboy Flashy for Tynagh.

The championships also featured derby competitions where there were wins for Thomastown and District’s Jessica Healy riding Barrettstown Close Shave in the RC 110 and RC 120 division and Meath’s Ian Quinlan who jumped one of three clear rounds in the RC 100 division.

The Burke family claimed the top two places in the RC 90 section where Rachel Burke on Rookery Kleo took the honours with a clear round for Benbulben with three seconds to spare over Avril Burke (Rookery Apache) in second place.

Elsewhere, Meath’s Pat Prenderville (Mr Grange Benjamin) won the RC 80 accumulator while Clodagh Ní Bhrádaigh (Ballyclogher Queen) claimed the RC 70 accumulator for the Stracomer club.

Kilrainy's Joe Conway on Prospect Cruise received the Connolly's Red Mills RC 80 Championship Trophy from Gay Parkinson \ David Abbott