Irish riders made an outstanding start in the individual qualifier for the Olympic showjumping at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday 3 August, with all three riders jumping clear and now look sure to qualify for Wednesday’s individual medal-decider.
The pathfinder for Ireland was Darragh Kenny, who produced a super clear over course-designer Santiago Varelo’s testing and colourful track riding Heathman Farm’s 14-year-old stallion Cartello, who he only started riding in May of this year.
“The horse feels good,” said Darragh, who went in to an early lead courtesy of his fast time. “It’s difficult to go early in the class, not knowing really what to do, but the horse jumped fantastic. He’s in great form so I’m looking forward to the week.”
Describing the track, which has caused plenty of upsets already, Darragh said: “It’s tough for day one – big jumps and the oxers are wide and spooky under the lights. The combination is quite a long six strides, so it suits a bigger striding horse. I think the last line is going to take a lot of jumping – it is very tough.”
Although both horse and rider are experienced in their own rights, Darragh and Cartello had only jumped at five international shows together before arriving in Tokyo.
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Darragh. “Cartello was very good in Madrid – which was the second show I took him to in the Globals [Global Champions Tour] and he jumped fantastic in the grand prix to finish third. And then he went to Rome and jumped the Nation’s Cup – we only jumped one round and he jumped clear – and then he went to La Baule and he was clear and four with a foot in the water, which really was my own fault.”
Ireland’s second representative, Bertram Allen and the nine-year-old Pacino Amiro, by the great stallion Pacino, followed with an equally impressive clear.
“That was very exciting,” said Bertram. “We’ve been here now for a while so to get in there and get a round behind us is great and I’m very happy with the horse. My guy is not spooky, he’s very genuine, but he is only nine. So, it’s a lot to take in for any horse, but a nine-year-old doing his first championship it’s a bit extra. But because he’s so genuine and has such a good brain, that’s why he does it.”
It wasn’t long before third rider for Ireland, Cian O’Connor made it a hat-trick of clears riding the lovely grey Kilkenny, owned by Sue Magnier.
“You don’t want to count your chickens too soon, but that will definitely give you the confidence,” said Cian reflecting on Ireland’s dream start to the Olympics.
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