Great Britain made it three wins in a row at Ballindenisk in Ireland, the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup Eventing 2016 series.
The home team finished second and a valiant French quartet, who had again made the long journey to the Co Cork venue, came a close third.
As a result, Ireland and France, respectively third and second at Fontainebleau (France) last month, now jointly head the 2016 FEI Nations Cup Eventing leaderboard. Britain, which could only finish sixth in the French leg, are in third place ahead of Fontainebleau winners Germany.
Britain has a policy of choosing from a pool of younger riders who have not yet been on a senior team, but last-minute changes to the squad resulted in the experienced Oliver Townend, a former European team gold medallist and CCI4* winner, being sent out as pathfinder. He finished second in the individual classification on Cooley SRS behind his compatriot Pippa Funnell on Mirage d’Elle.
FEI Nations Cup Eventing first-timers Franky Reid-Warrilow, who finished in individual third place on Dolley Whisper, and Wills Oakden (Merikano, 15th) joined team stalwart Izzy Taylor (Briarlands Birdsong, 16th) who was, unusually, the discard score after incurring 11 penalties for breaking a frangible pin.
Joseph Murphy finished best of the Irish team, in sixth place on his experienced horse Sportsfield Othello, and Geoffroy Soullez, a regular member of France’s FEI Nations Cup Eventing squad, was the highest placed for his country, in ninth place on Madiran Du Liot.
Britain led from the start, and kept their advantage despite Townend and Oakden incurring 20 jumping faults between them, but Ireland and France swapped places after dressage when Matthieu Vanlandeghem incurred 14 jumping penalties on Safran Du Chanois ENE HN. However, neither team was able to overhaul the Team GB for cross-country speed – their only time penalties, just 0.8, came from Reid-Warrilow.
The four strong Irish team was made up entirely of Irish Sport Horses, and along with Murphy’s Sportsfield Othello, there was Michael Ryan, partnering Ballylynch Adventure, Cathal Daniels aboard Barnaboy Freeman, and Nicola Ennis riding Westwinds Jack Of Hearts.
Irish Eventing Team Manager Nick Turner was pleased with the performance of the squad. Unfortunately, Ennis’s mount lost a shoe showjumping in the morning and was sore so didn’t go cross-country.
“We had three very solid cross-country rounds and it was great to finish second. The organizers here at Ballindenisk as always did a very good job and the Nations Cup course in particular had a very good balance, asked the right questions and was a credit to all involved,” Turner said.
The FEI Nations Cup Eventing action moves next month to Houghton Hall in Britain, where the home side will be hoping to regain supremacy, having lost to Germany last year and New Zealand in 2014.
1 Great Britain, 162.8 Oliver Townend/Cooley SRS, 48.7; Franky Reid-Warrilow/Dolley Whisper, 51.3; Wills Oakden/Merikano, 62.8 (Izzy Taylor/Briarlands Birdsong, 64.5)
2 Ireland, 182.5 Joseph Murphy/Sportsfield Othello, 55.1; Michael Ryan/Ballylynch Adventure, 58.7; Cathal Daniels/Barnaboy Freeman, 68.7 (Nicola Ennis/Westwinds Jack of Hearts, WD XC)
3 France, 184.4 Geoffroy Soullez/Madiran Du Liot, 56.4; Arnaud Boiteau/Sultan De La Motte, 62.1; Matthieu Vanlandeghem/Safran Du Chanois ENE HN, 65.9 (Marie Caroline Barbier/Picasso D’Oreal, 72.4)
FEI Nations Cup Eventing standings (after 2 out of 9 events)
1= Ireland 170 points
1= France 170
3 Great Britain 155
4 Germany 100
5 Australia 70
6 Sweden 60
7 Italy 50
8 Netherlands 45
9 Belgium 40
FEI Nations Cup Eventing 2016 calendar
1 Fontainebleau (FRA) 23-25 March
2 Ballindenisk (IRE) 22-24 April
3 Houghton Hall (GBR) 26-29 May
4 Strzegom (POL) 24-26 June
5 The Plains (USA) 8-10 July
6 Aachen (GER) 14-17 July
7 Vairano (ITA) 16-18 September
8 Waregem (BEL) 22-25 September
9 Boekelo (NED) 6-9 October