NIAMH McEvoy got the 1.50m Plusvital Premier Grand Prix Series off to a superb start with a thrilling victory in the first round at Barnadown last Sunday.

Riding Robin Bingham’s 14-year-old mare Templepatrick Welcome Limmerick (Limmerick x Lux Z), McEvoy showed the impressive rapport the pair have built over their three years together.

Speaking after the win she said: “I’m so happy with her (Templepatrick Welcome Limmerick), she was in great form today. She has been an amazing horse for me. She got me into the bigger classes; my first 1.40m up to my first five-star Grand Prix. She qualified for the internationals in Dublin through the Premier Series two years ago.

“I hadn’t seen anyone go before I went in, but we had a plan in place. I knew Frano (Francis Derwin) was in the lead and he is always very fast, so I knew I would just have to go as fast as I could. I planned to do seven strides between fences two and three, but we ended up with eight, she was very good to me there.

“This was our first show back after two months in Spain. The track was nice and the ground was perfect, as always here. She was very careful through the double and it was a long run to the last, but I just trusted her and she came through for me. I’m delighted with her.

“We have a huge army behind us, and I’m very grateful to the entire team, it makes all the difference. I want to thank Maurice (Cousins). He always runs a brilliant show and this one was no different.”

Some 14 of the 43 starters managed to produce a clear first round over the John Doyle-designed track to earn a place in the timed decider.

Pace setter

First to go was Jason Foley aboard Castlefield Breeding Farm’s Dutch-bred stallion Durango (Zirocco Blue x Lux Z). They set the pace with one fence down for four faults in a time of 42.04.

Next in, Francis Derwin Jnr riding Flexi K (Flex A Bill x Luidam), bred by Knightfield Stud, produced a superb fault-free round in 41.50, which would be good enough to see them take the runner-up spot in the final line-up.

Commandant Geoff Curran and the Minister For Defence’s gelding Glengarra Wood (Capitalist x Cavalier Clover Lad) were unlucky to part ways after a miscommunication at the fourth fence, which resulted in elimination, fortunately the pair emerged unscathed.

Seamus Hughes Kennedy had two horses through to the jump-off. The first of these was the Jim O’Neill-bred mare Castlefield Hera (Plot Blue x Puissance). An unlucky error in 42 seconds even left them with four to add, and out of the prizes.

The next two riders, Kian Dore and the Belgian-bred Puerto Rico Van T’ Roosakker (Kannan x Echo Van T Spieveld) and Jason Foley with the French gelding Chedington Fixit (Diamant de Semilly x Premium de Laubry), incurred four faults apiece.

Nicholas Connors guided Ann Connors’ Fornett D’Emeraude (Cornet Obolensky x L’Arc de Triomphe) to the second double clear of the class in 45.06, which would leave them in fourth place.

Next in was McEvoy. A foot-perfect round in 39.56 saw them capture the lead, a place they would retain and earn them the lion’s share of the €15,000 prize pot.

Mikey Pender and Marion Hughes’ HHS Fortune (Catoki x Ard VDL Douglas) came closest to catching the leader when they stopped the clock in a faster time of 39.13, but a single fence on the ground denied them the win and they had to settle for seventh place.

Cappog Tomy (Camiro De Haar Z x S Creevagh Ferro Ex Siebe) and owner/rider Cathal Daniels had two fences down, while Shane O’Reilly and Brian McConville’s Lancer Luck (Castleforbes Lord Lancer x Coevers Diamond Boy) had one down.

Last to go was Seamus Hughes Kennedy and his second mount Clare Hughes’ ESI Rocky (Stakkato Gold x For Pleasure), bred by Ennisnag Stud. They produced the fourth double clear in 44.94, which put them into third place.

The remaining two combinations, Francis Derwin (Whiterock Cruise Down) and Patrick Hickey (Casago II) collected four faults each, but both had very fast times of 38.48 and 38.68 respectively, which earned them fifth and sixth places.

The next and second round of the six-strong Plusvital Premier Series takes place in Mullingar on June 3rd.