‘It’s best not to get involved with the reins’: Padraig McCarthy seals Ireland’s hike up the leaderboard with speedy Leonidas II

  • Ireland is lying in fifth place at the conclusion of the European Eventing Championships cross-country day in Avenches, Switzerland (25 September). The team has pulled up from 11th after dressage with three good clear rounds over this flat and twisting track.

    Padraig McCarthy was Ireland’s anchorman with the 17-year-old Leonidas II, who were one of only seven pairs to jump clear inside the 10min 7sec optimum time.  This hauled them up from 47th  individually to 14th on their dressage score of 33.1.

    “I had a really great round – he can sometimes be strong, but he felt very relaxed,” he said.

    Padraig was not in fact chasing the time with the horse, who went to the Rio Olympics with Mark Todd.

    “Sally [Corscadden, Ireland’s high performance director] said the main thing was to go between the flags and not worry about too many time-faults, but with Leonidas the direct way is often the best; he’s a very fast horse,” said Padraig.

    “I tried to keep him as controlled and focused as I could, but he’s quick and he never tires. For me the consideration was never about taking more risk [taking straight routes] but he just doesn’t turn as well.

    “He jumps a bit like a deer, but he is normally a very safe horse – the best thing is not to get too involved with the reins! He ran all the way to the end and he will keep going and going.”

    Irish pathfinder shows the way at European Eventing Championships cross-country

    Ireland’s Sam Watson was the third rider out on the course at the start of the day, riding Ballybolger Talisman, and the first to jump clear. He clocked up 6.8 time-faults on the 10-year-old Puissance gelding.

    “His engine and stamina were superb,” Sam said. “We put in a couple more strides in a few places than was the plan, but he always wanted to go through the flags.”

    There was one nervous moment, however.

    “I had one big scare coming on to the racecourse, as there was a bit of juice on the ground and he nearly went right down on the turn,” Sam explained. “He had pulled a shoe off probably earlier and that just affected the grip. That was a fright but had nothing to do with the fences.”

    This result pulled them up from 50th after dressage to 29th overnight.

    “It’s like he’s read the cross-country book”

    Cathal Daniels was second out for Ireland on LEB Lias Jewel, but had a run-out at Christine’s Corners at fence 16b. Next up was Joseph Murphy, riding as an individual, but while Sam rode his luck with his slip on the flat, Joseph’s horse Cesar V came down enforcing elimination.

    As third team rider Clare Abbott headed out on her nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse Jewelent, she was wary of her compatriots’ slip-ups.

    “He’s an old horse on young shoulders, it’s like his read the cross-country book,” said Clare, who jumped clear with 5.6 time-faults. “After Joseph having his tip-up I was careful on every crossing. He’s laid-back and you have to poke him along every inch of the way. But wow, what a good boy, he was absolutely brilliant.

    “He is the most honest, genuine, ground-covering horse; you never have to touch the reins and he never gives a moment’s trouble.”

    This moved the pair up from 31st into the top 20, on a score of 36. Ireland have their work cut out to make the podium tomorrow, however. Britain leads on 69.1, with two fences in hand over Germany. France is lying third, ahead of Switzerland and then Ireland. Ireland are on 109.4, three fences behind the bronze medal position.

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