Sarah Ennis recorded the twelfth victory of her international eventing career on Sunday afternoon on the closing day of the Fernhill Sport Horses Kilguilkey International Horse Trials in Mallow, Co. Cork. A second place finish in last years feature class left the Meath rider determined to go one better in the Global Event Horses CIC3* and she duly delivered with her 13 year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding ‘Horseware Stellor Rebound.’ Under the watchful eyes of Ground Jury members Faith Ponsonby (IRL) and Peter Eck (BUL), Ennis produced the second-best dressage test of the competition and a clear showjumping round on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon saw her move ahead of dressage leaders Clare Abbott (IRL) and Euro Prince who picked up four penalties.
Kilguilkey House has developed a reputation for technical but fair cross country courses and once again, Olympic and World Championship course designer Mike Etherington-Smith had posed some interesting questions on the 3.7km track.
With the recent heatwave, the ground conditions were the main talking point of the event and over a 48-hour period, the competition tracks were ‘agrivated’ before being treated with 250 tonnes of sand and close to 1.8 million litres of water. Sunday morning brought a cloudy start that provided some relief from the blistering temperatures, and when Galway’s Cathal Daniels produced a clear jumping round with Sammy Davis Junior (adding just 2.4 time penalties to take second place in the final standings), Ennis knew that she could only afford to finish with up to seven seconds over the time allowed (06.31) if she was to remain at the top of the leaderboard after all three phases. Experience paid off and the combination that finished 7th individually at last year’s European Eventing Championships produced the only clear round inside the time to take the honours at the end of competition.
Now in its sixth year, Kilguilkey House has been developed by hosts Danny and Michelle Dulohery to become a core element on the International eventing calendar with riders frequently using the facility as part of their preparations for upcoming European and World championships. The TopSpec CIC2* was another hotly contested affair with Kilguilkey first-timer Kevin McNab (AUS) finishing on top after adding just a single showjumping time fault to his dressage score with Lisa Fletcher’s ‘Willunga.’ Based in the UK, McNab picked up the Millstreet CCI2* title with the Irish Sport Horse gelding last August and following a placing in the CCI2* at Tattersalls International recently, the Australian rider is now a hot contender for the €10,000 Horse Sport Ireland Eventing Challenge where riders are vying for league points at Irish International horse trials across the summer in the hope of putting their name on the cheque at the final leg in Ballindenisk, Co. Cork this September. Again, Cathal Daniels had to settle for second place with ‘OLS King Aragon;’ just one tenth of a penalty ahead of Kilguilkey House-sponsored rider Luke Coen and ‘Stroke of Genius’ who produced the best performance of their International career to date.
Over 200 horses and riders passed through the gates of Kilguilkey this weekend representing nations including Great Britain, Canada, Italy, Australia, the USA and Argentina. Many of these were competing in the CIC1* classes (1.10m level) and the Plusvital CIC* saw 63 combinations come forward at the start of competition. In the end, Kilkenny-based Fraser Duffy recorded the second Kilguilkey CIC1* win of his career; this time with Carol Gee and Clare Corballis’ six year old Irish Sport Horse mare ‘Fernhill Sky High.’ Italian visitor Giovanni Ugolotti (Penhill Celtic) took the runner-up position while Mallow-based Brian Morrison of Global Event Horses had to settle for third with ‘Global Ex,’ having picked up one time fault in the showjumping arena. The Eventing Ireland CIC* Pony class was an important step in the selection process for the European Eventing Championships for Ponies which take place in Bishop Burton College (GBR) in August. A double clear performance saw Ava Banahan take the top podium position with ‘Regent de Mauvis,’ just ahead of Sophie Foyle (Little Miss Fernhill) and Chloe Fagan (Fernhill Timbacktoo).
Kilguilkey House will go down in the international eventing record books as the first venue in the British Isles to host FEI affiliated competition at CI Intro (1.05m) level. Despite a select number of entries, the cream rose to the top in the Equissentials and Avalon sponsored class with two double clear performances taking the top positions on the leaderboard. Regular Kilguilkey visitor Sharon Power made the trip from Tipperary worthwhile by winning the inaugural class with her own seven-year-old gelding ‘SRS Mini Vendi’ while Lucy Latta (RCA Patron Saint) settled for second.
With the conclusion of the international action at Kilguilkey, the venue now focusses on the grass roots level as it prepares to welcome the Duhallow Hunt Pony Club for their annual camp this week, ahead of an Eventing Ireland One Day Event on Sunday 8th July. Many of the riders this weekend will be returning to Kilguilkey later in the year as the venue will host the Eventing Ireland National Championships for the first time.