O’Connor dreams big at Hagen

Cian O’Connor takes promising ride Irenice Horta to the four-star meeting at Hagen, Germany, this weekend. Picture: Moises Basallote / Sunshine Tour

Cian O’Connor takes his relatively recent acquisition Irenice Horta to this week’s four-star Horses and Dreams fixture at Hagen in Germany. The Irish rider has taken a back seat from competition so far this year to concentrate on coaching clients, but with some serious Nations Cup fixtures looming ahead of August’s European Championships, the German fixture will be a welcome outing for the pairing as the season gets going in earnest.

Irenice Horta was bought by O’Connor last November from Belgian-based Stephex Stables. Spectators at the RDS may remember the then 10-year-old mare going double-clear to take third place in the Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show last year when partnered by Italian Lorenzo De Luca. The pairing followed up that performance by scoring a seventh-place finish at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina the following month.

Earlier this year O’Connor brought the horse to the Sunshine Tour at Vejer de la Frontera where the pair made a Grand Prix jump-off in March, but the Germany-based Meath rider was mostly concerned with coaching during the six weeks of action at Spanish venue.

The Hagen meeting will naturally feature a host of top German riders but Ireland will be well represented. Apart from O’Connor, Irish riders involved are Michael G Duffy who brings Lapuccino and SIEC Anna JO, Cameron Hanley who will compete with Aiyetoro and Centrolina RB, and Peter Moloney with Ornellaia.

The Hagen meeting includes dressage but no Irish are involved.

Meanwhile Darragh Kenny and captain Brian Cournane will compete at the Longines Masters of New York this weekend, which includes a round of the Riders Masters Cup, the relatively new Europe v USA contest first staged in 2017 and conceived by the Longines Masters promoters EEM.

Apart from the individual classes, Kenny may line out for the European team, as he was named in the provisional squad, but manager Philipe Guerdat has yet to name his final selections. This will be the ‘home’ outing for the Americans, with the European leg being staged in Paris.

In the contest’s relatively short history, there have been two European stagings and one American, and team Europe has won all three, which will give US manager Robert Ridland plenty of incentive to notch a first victory.

After two successive weeks of action on the Global Champions Tour, with rounds in Mexico and Miami, the series takes a short break before moving to Shanghai next week.

Irish riders were to the fore this past weekend in the Miami round which resulted in a home win for Miami Celtics, for whom Shane Breen and Michael Duffy provided the crucial clear rounds on Ipswich van de Wolfsakker and Quintano, respectively, in the concluding phase on Saturday. “It was sensational,” said Breen. “Michael rode fantastic. Both our horses jumped superb. We get good points on the board now so we’ll crack on from here.”

No less pleased was team owner Monica McCourt. “I’m so proud of these boys,” she said. “They’re spectacular under pressure and to win it in Miami, which is our home, means so much.”

The result sees Miami in third place in the overall team table after the three rounds staged so far, with Shanghai Swans still heading affairs having won the first two rounds, in Doha and Mexico. Shane Sweetnam, who is the only Irish rider in the Swans squad, jumped just one round in Miami and had one down and a time fault on Alejandro, one of his newer mounts. The team finished fourth on the day which was more than enough to keep them with a comfortable lead in the series.

It wasn’t such a good meeting for Bertram Allen’s Valkenswaard United who slumped to 12th. Allen had two eight-fault rounds on Molly Malone while Italian team mate Alberto Zorzi picked up 20 faults over his two rounds on Danique. It leaves the team in an unfamiliar ninth place in the league standings, quite out of character with their ‘historical’ placings, the team having won the league in 2016 and finished second in both 2017 and 2018. There are still 17 venues left this season for Valkenswaard to attempt a return to a more familiar standing.

Billy Twomey, Bertram Allen, and Mark McAuley will be competing in St Tropez for the French venue’s second week of four-star action.

There will also be a strong Irish presence at the three-star meeting in Lexington, USA, which gets under way today. Kevin Babington, Daniel Coyle, Paul O’Shea, Conor Swail, and Shane Sweetnam are all set to chase a share of the spoils.

Ireland’s Para-Equestrian Dressage riders are in action in Belgium at Waregem for the three-star meeting which has attracted a global spread of competitors. Ireland will be represented by Tasmin Addison (Fahrenheit), James Dwyer (Fleurette Van De Kreugel), Rosemary Gaffney (Bink), Kate Kerr Horan (Serafina T), and Michael Murphy (Rohan).


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