ALL three Irish show jumpers have made it through to tomorrow's individual show jumping final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to jump for medals.
Santiago Varela's track on the opening day caused plenty of problems throughout, with just 25 of the 73 competitors jumping a fault-free round. Another four cleared all the fences with a single time fault and one made it through with two time faults. The big treble combination came up early at number four, while the tight turn back to fence 10 saw plenty of runouts and refusals.
All 30 qualified combinations begin tomorrow's final on a score of zero.
Darragh Kenny was eighth into the arena on his Olympic debut with Heathman Farm’s 14-year-old VDL Cartello and they never looked close to touching a pole, producing a classy clear round over the difficult track.
Speaking to The Irish Field after, Darragh Kenny said: “It was great, I was really happy with how the horse jumped. It was really cool to get to jump my first Olympics, an amazing feeling. I was a bit nervous at the start but once I got in the ring then it was all okay and the horse felt great so hopefully it keeps going like that.”
It was the first time Darragh competed the horse under the lights but he added that the horse felt confident in the atmosphere.
Bertram Allen was next for Ireland with Aiden McGrory's nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Pacino Amiro (Pacino x NC Amiro). Bred by Simon Scott in Co Donegal, the gelding showed his incredible scope and looked at ease around the big track to produce a foot perfect clear.
"He felt great. It’s been a long week over here waiting for that so it is great to have that round behind us and be in tomorrow with a shout, so fingers crossed,” said Allen who was also making his Olympic debut just days after turning 26.
“My guy is only nine and a bit green to this level and it is all a bit to take in but he really tried his best."
Three-time Olympian and London 2012 bronze medallist Cian O’Connor was last of the Irish on day one with another nine-year-old Irish-bred gelding, Kilkenny (Cardento x Guidam), who was bred by Sinead Brennan at Mill House Stud. Demonstrating the strength of the Irish, O’Connor produced the third foot-perfect clear round with the stunning grey gelding.
"Early days yet but great to have made the top 30," Cian said. "All three of us are in with a chance tomorrow so please god it goes our way."
On RTÉ, he added: “I am very lucky I have an amazing horse, all the better that he is Irish. Kilkenny is new at this level, there is a lot more atmosphere here tonight, despite not having crowds but he really grows in the ring and gives everything a couple of feet, he is a pleasure to ride."
Show jumping team manager, Michael Blake, was delighted with the good start for Ireland and is looking forward to the competition ahead. “It couldn’t be better. We came here with high expectations so far, and the boys are delivering," he said. "We had a very early draw that was nail biting in ways, we didn’t get to see many people go in so we had a very solid plan and what we would do with each horse - a separate plan for all of them. Our horses look like they are very strong, and it is a very long week. I think they will keep their freshness.”
The home nation of Japan looked really strong in the opening individual round with two clear rounds from Daisuke Fukushima and Koki Saito and a single time fault from Eiken Sato.
The British team also got off to an excellent start with Ben Maher (Explosion W), Scott Brash (Jefferson) and 22-year-old Olympian Harry Charles (Romeo 88), who will just be competing in the individual competition, all producing great clear rounds to go through to the individual final. So too did the Belgian team of Niels Bruynseels (Delux Van T & L), Jerome Guery (Quel Homme De Hus) and Gregory Wathelet (Nevados S).
Team USA were out of luck when all three riders - Jessica Springsteen (Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve), Kent Farrington (Gazelle) and Laura Kraut (Baloutine) faulted to miss out on any individual chances.
High profile riders not to make it through to tomorrow’s round included the 2012 individual champion Steve Guerdat (Venard De Cerisy), Australian individual rider Edwina Tops-Alexander (Identity Vitseroel) and the German pair of Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria) and Christian Kukuk (Mumbai).
Tomorrow's (Wednesday) individual final sees the top 30 jump for medals. It begins at 11am Irish time. Cian O'Connor will be 6th to go, Bertram Allen is 25th to go, while Darragh Kenny has the draw of second last thanks to his fast time today.