Germanys Franke Sloothaak topped the line-up in the big class on the opening day of the Belfast International Horse Show yesterday, while Tim Stockdale (pictured right) opened the British account when winning the opening competition of the four-day fixture.
The late-night Titanic Quarter Winning Round saw five groups of seven riders doing battle. The group winners were joined by the three fastest losers in the jump-off.
Robert Smith, Nick Skelton and Ireland’s reigning world champion, Dermott Lennon, qualified in the latter category but four faults for Marius Claudius and eight for Arko in the jump off left the British riders down the line in fifth and seventh respectively.
Lennon was making a rare Irish appearance, as he has been based for some years now in Holland, and he made his home-coming an impressive one. He set the second-round target with a great clear from the 14-year-old gelding Impact, who has been one of his top rides since losing the services of his world championship partner Liscalgot.
Switzerlands Daniel Etter bettered the Irishmans time of 36.46sec when scorching across the line with Hermine DAuzay, but a pole on the floor negated his 2sec advantage.
Sloothaak and the nine-year-old Sundance K cruised round from fifth draw to re-set the parameters with a clear in 35.78secs, leaving the rest to battle it out for the minor placings. Irelands Clem McMahon (Hermes de Reve) and Marion Hughes (Heritage Transmission) both faulted once, while Marie Burke retired after an early error from her talented stallion Chippison.
Sloothaak picked up the winners purse of £5,000 while Lennon took £3,600 for runner-up spot. Etter finished third ahead of McMahon in fourth.
The action at the Odyssey Arena, in the heart of the Belfast docklands, kicked off with a good result for Tim Stockdale, riding Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs, who left the rest trailing in his wake to take the £2,000 top prize in the Equestrian Sports Promotions Welcome Stakes. The home sides Cian OConnor slotted into second with a new ride, the grey mare Night Dancer.
The 25-year-old Irish rider has been coming under heavy fire over the potential loss of his Olympic gold medal following a positive dope test result in Athens and the susequent theft of the horses B urine sample.
Despite all the controversy OConnor got a huge reception when riding into the Odyssey ring for the first time yesterday and he was still grinning broadly when he lined up behind Stockdale and Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs in the first prize-giving ceremony.
Britains Alex Rident slotted into third here with a great speed round from Dody de Chalusse while Michel Hecart was next in line riding the Irish-bred Thats Life.
Austrias Gerfried Puck and Mozart who stood top of the line in the second class of the afternoon, the Equestrian Surfaces Star Studded Premier Stakes. Puck pipped Belgiums Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe and Osta Rugs Trebor to the top spot by the smallest of margins while John Whitaker kept the British flag flying in third with the 12-year-old stallion Exploit de Roulard.