Irish quinella in eventing World Cup qualifier

June 1, 2009

Ireland claimed the HSBC Eventing World Cup Qualifier at Tattersalls, Co. Meath for the second year in a row at the weekend with a spectacular finish by Cork-based Patricia Ryan and the Irish-bred Fernhill Clover Mist.

Ryan's husband Michael sealed the victory with a second place on Old Road. The quinella thrilled the large and patriotic crowd.

Tattersalls World Cup qualifier winners Patricia Ryan and Fernhill Clover Mist receives their awards from Joe Walsh, Chairman of Horse Board Ireland. © Kit Houghton/FEI
The final jumping phase lived up to its billing as being one of the biggest and most exciting tracks and, as the leading British riders cracked under the pressure of a closely-packed leaderboard, the Ryans began their meteoric rises, Patricia from 4th to 1st and Michael from 7th to 2nd.

Lying overnight fourth after cross-country, Patricia Ryan faced the challenge of overtaking some of the world's best event riders to claim the title, but a clear show jumping round on the 12 year-old bay gelding propelled her past the British leaders to repeat Capt. Geoff Curran's 2008 Irish victory.

Mary King (GBR), emphatically back in action after a spring season decimated by a virus, shot into second place in the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing standings, her three horses Imperial Cavalier, Fernhill Urco and her home-bred Kings Temptress finishing 3rd, 6th and 11th. "It's just so great to be back in action. Imperial Cavalier was thrilled to be galloping again and he felt lovely," King said. "I'm also very excited about my new horse, Fernhill Urco. He was quite strong but I think that when our partnership has had time to gel, it could be quite exciting for the future."

Oliver Townend (GBR), the HSBC FEI Classics leader, looked set to add Tattersalls to his Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials victory three weeks previously, but his ride, the 12-year-old Jackson d'Allez was coming back after a year off, and having given his all the previous day to lead the Cross-Country, hit a disastrous 8 fences and dropped to 24th.

Two more Irish-bed horses finished in the top 10, with Declan Cullen slotting Glenhill Gold into eighth and Camilla Speirs placing Portersize Just a Jiff in ninth.

New Zealand's Caroline Powell finished 15th on Mac Macdonald, after having 10 jumping faults, to end on 76.7. Her other mount, Apapa, was 20th on 80.6, after having eight jump faults.

The other Kiwi in the four-star event, Mark Todd, was put out of contention on cross-country day.

Tattersalls' jumping course has a reputation for being a serious track, and the Ryans were the only riders in the top 10 to jump clear, an achievement they attributed to trainer Michael Quirk (IRL), who is working with team manager Ginny Elliot (GBR) and Horse Sport Ireland. "A year ago I would have felt quite nervous about a course like this," said Patricia Ryan, "but this time I felt quite cool and confident, knowing that it was really within my capability," she said.

"I tried not to listen to what was going on in the Jumping and to keep cool. I knew that if I kept calm and in a rhythm it would be all right, but I still can't believe it. It hasn't sunk in. This is this horse's biggest success. He isn't the easiest to ride because he can be spooky, but today he was great," Patricia said.

Patricia Ryan (nee Donegan) first sprang to prominence with a horse called Don't Step Back, with whom she represented Ireland at the Sydney Olympics. She rode Tom and Carol Henry's 13-year-old Fernhill Clover Mist, an Irish Sport Horse by Kiltealy Spring, on the Olympic team in Hong Kong last year and is a candidate for the Irish team at this year's HSBC FEI European Eventing Championship in Fontainebleau (FRA) in September. She has been riding this horse for seven years.

Michael Ryan's Old Road, by Puissance, a stalwart of the Irish team, is now 16 and has been dropped down a level to 3-star to "have some fun". He may well now be making the trip to Poland for the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Final.

"Patricia and I have been tit for tat with coming first and second in national competitions over the first week, so I really don't mind who wins as long as we keep it in the family!" Michael said. "This is definitely Old Road's best ever result and as it's probably the hottest 3-star competition in Europe this year, I'm thrilled."

Some 38 combinations finished the cross-country, but only six had under 10 time penalties. Seven riders were eliminated on the cross-country (four horse falls, two rider falls, and one had three refusals), and seven retired on the phase.

• British rider Matthew Wright and Park Pilot (46.9) won the two star class, with compatriot Francis Whittington and Easy Target (49.6) second. Michael Ryan placed third with Annestown Emperor (50.2). New Zealand's Mark Todd and Grass Valley finished fifth on their dressage score of 53.1, and Andrew Nicholson and Tristar II were eighth on 55.1. After sitting in third after the cross-country, Nicholson's Calico Joe dropped out of contention with 20 jump faults to end on 64.1 penalties in 22nd place. Nicholson's third mount, Shady Grey failed to fire over the fences after starting out 14th after dressage, finishing in 37th place of the 38 finishers.

In the one-star class, Nicholson and Quimbo were fourth, with 49.9. The class was won by Michael Ryan on Dromgurrihy Blue with 42.6 penalties.