The first horses have arrived at Punchestown Racecourse, Ireland, for the Punchestown International Three Day Event (May 18 – 21). This year Punchestown celebrates its 40th anniversary and is set to be a prestigious occasion.

England-based Irish rider Sasha Pemble led the procession of boxes into the lorry park yesterday evening – competitors from all over the world have entered this flagship event, including Britain’s Pippa Funnell and Mary King.

“The benefits to Ireland of hosting such a high profile event are immense,” explained John O’Donoghue T.D., Minister for Arts Sport & Tourism. “It allows us to reaffirm to the world’s foremost competitors, international media, overseas spectators and a worldwide television audience Ireland’s unique versatility as a world class sports tourism destination and the Nation’s ability to consistently stage world class events in a wide variety of sports.”

The event includes the Irish Horse Board Three-Star, The Fáilte Ireland Two-Star and the CLG Developments Young Rider Two-Star Classes as well as young event horse classes. Irish equestrian legend Tommy Brennan’s cross-country course is guaranteed to sort the men from the boys and successful competitors will share in the €60,000 prize fund.

Mary King and Pippa Funnell have both entered the Irish Horse Board Three-Star. King will be riding Apache Sauce with whom she finished seventh at Belton Park and eighth at Bicton in April. Pippa Funnell will be looking for a successful cross-country round aboard Ensign (pictured) after suffering a nasty fall at the hay cart at Badminton two weeks ago. If the pair’s previous track record is anything to go by, Badminton was a one-off disaster. Funnell and the relatively inexperienced Ensign finished ninth at the European Championships at Blenheim last September and scored a sixth place in the Burnham Market World Cup Qualifier in April this year.

But Funnell will have her work cut out at Punchestown, having also entered Chamrock in the Irish Horse Board Three-Star. Chamrock has already proven he is a star in the making, winning the Advanced at Bicton in April on an impressive dressage score of 26.5pen.

Joe Walsh T.D., Chairman of the Irish Horse Board said: “The Irish horse has been at the forefront of the World Breeding Federation Rankings in Eventing for many years. Supporting this, Ireland’s premier event at Punchestown is another way in which the Horse Board can be active in promoting the success of the Irish Bred eventer at the very highest levels of competition.”

Eventing is not the only equestrian sport taking place at Punchestown this weekend. Grand prix show jumping, hunter classes and dressage displays are also on the agenda as well as the first International Inter-Schools show jumping Classic – an invitational competition for schools from Ireland and Britain.

For more information visit: www.eventingireland.com

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