Double victory for world class Pender at opening grand prix weekend

Glorious weather welcomed elite athlete showjumping to the Meadows, Lurgan thanks to Sport NI and Showjumping Ireland coming together with Horsesport Ireland to organise two days of championships co-ordinated by international course designer Aaron McCusker, writes Ruth Loney.

Michael Prender
Michael Prender

Michael Pender from the Marion Hughes team in Kilkenny was all conquering with two different horses, taking the HSI £2,700 Seven year old final on GCS Athena owned by Tim Brennan and winning the £4,000 Showjumping Ireland Sunday 1.40m Grand Prix from 45 starters on Gortlettra Louie.

GCS Athena was fastest in the HSI seven year old final in 41.83 beating Diarmuid Ryan, Galway on Corraghoe Steel, who was second in 44.28, while young rider Niamh McEvoy from Omagh occupied third on Lisboy Louie owned by her father, Richard.

Pender, who has been selected for the Global Champions Tour world team competition, begins his senior international tour in June when he heads to Cannes.

Johanna Sixt, winner of the 1.35m Grand Prix at the Meadows championship weekend.

Pender, the most travelled and most quarantined rider between Ireland and Europe this year explained: “This was my first big show in Northern Ireland and it has been fantastic.

“I have had many quarantines between shows in Europe and at home, and many Covid tests, it is just brilliant to compete in sunshine at home and take two major titles. This weekend has been a great start to the Horsesport Ireland youngster qualifiers and the first GP in Northern Ireland.”

Sligo rider Deane Rogan partnered De L’Oiseliere owned by Declan McGarry to take runner up in the Grand Prix in 39.15 with Clones ace Clement McMahon impressing for third with Hilton Banner, clear in 41.07.

Galway’s Tim Macdonagh on Hollypark Galloway finished fourth ahead of Strabane’s Jonathan Smyth with Noletta Smyth and Roy Craig’s Mulvin Lights Out. Smyth added: “I competed in Portugal until the Equine Herpes virus cancelled shows in Europe. It is great to be competing again at home.”

Aaron McCusker added: “We have been overwhelmed by the support for our first major Grand Prix show; hopefully we may have an international event in the summer.”

The HSI six year old qualifier was dominated by Waterford’s Michelle Kenny on board David O’Donnell’s Boleybawn First Lady winning in 33.46 from an 18 horse jump off and beating herself for second with Allen Breen’s AVM Bellissima, clear in 33.79. Kenny also claimed the final ahead of Linda Maloney, Kilkenny and Irish Army rider Capt Charlene Kehoe in third.

County Antrim born Annie Courtney Cadam with her mother Linda Courtney’s LCC Emerald Vigo galloped into a worthy third place in 40.04 in the qualifier.

Austrian born Johanna Sixt (23) reigned supreme for Mayo’s Sandra Duffy with Fini to win The Meadows 1.35m Grand Prix from 24 starters knocking Sean Monaghan off the leaderboard with a superb clear in 38.88.

“I have been based with the Duffy team in Mayo for two years, this is my first ever visit to this show. I also won a 1.30m class, it has been excellent with Covid rules and lots of space.”

Monaghan, who rides for the Antrim based team of Linda Courtney finished small grand prix runner up in 40.34 with Lisbane Aladdin ahead of Omagh’s Mackenzie Healy on McFadden Equine’s Domar Van de Neerheide.

Cairo born, Sam El Daham and WKD Little Star owned by Joanne Sloan Allen, Templepatrick slotted into fourth place in 41.56.

Meanwhile in Monterrey Mexico, Londonderry’s Jordan Coyle and Picador had first and second in two 1m 45 classes and were fifth in the 4 star Grand Prix.