Ian Quinlan finally laid claim to the Advanced Intermediate championship title at the third time of asking at the Connolly’s RED MILLS AIRC National Hunter Trials Championships last Sunday.
The Meath rider was the only competitor from a field of 15 to complete the 20-fence course which had no less than 36 jumping efforts with a clean sheet.
Conditions were perfect on the day for Quinlan’s 8-year-old grey gelding, Cruise Control II, who completed the 2.6-kilometre course in a time of 6 minutes and 24 seconds, just six ahead of the optimum time (6’30) to land the title for the Meath club.
Time penalties proved influential for most of the rest of the field with Roisin Gilsenan picking up just one-time penalty on her 7-year-old grey gelding, Emerald Delight, in a time of 6’19. The Kilrainy rider crossed the line just outside the 20 second window to take the blue-ribbon home to Westmeath..
An optimum time is used at the championships rather than against the clock when competitors were given a 20-second window to complete the course but if they finished outside of this, they incurred time penalties at a rate of one per second or part thereof.
Ian Quinlan said after his win, “I really enjoyed the day and the track rode great, I’m delighted to have won on Prince, as he’s known at home. It was our third time of trying as we were 3rd last year and 2nd in 2019 which was very special back then as he’d just come back from a very bad shoulder injury.”
“He hunts regularly with the Ward Union Hunt and loves hunter trialling. We went to get a run at the South County Hunter Trials the week before to get his eye in for the championships where we picked up a fourth place,” he added.
Newcomer Claire Kirkwood won the Advanced Primary championship after the Inishowen rider was closest to the optimum time of the four riders who finished with a clean sheet after time was factored into the equation.
Kirkwood was just 8 seconds over the target of 7’42 on her 13-year-old appaloosa gelding, Dominoes Way for the Donegal club.
It was a narrow victory as Kilrainy’s Grainne was just one second adrift of Kirkwood on her 20-year-old grey gelding, Orlando of Araglen, on 7’51.
Kirkwood who only joined her club last June said,
we had a brilliant run over the course at Flowerhill on our first outing at the championships in our first year as a member of an AIRC affiliated club.”
“Dominoes Way was consistent as always, and we had great support from my fellow club members. Thanks to all involved in organising and volunteering at such an amazing event,” she added.
Almost 40 riders contested the Intermediate championship where the top six riders all finished on a clean sheet with the spoils remaining in Burke family in Sligo for the second year in a row.
This time around it was Avril Burke who landed the title on her new ten-year-old grey mare, Rookery Luna after the Benbulben rider stopped the clock just three seconds off the target of 6’51.
Rachel Flynn narrowly missed out on the top spot after the Friary rider had to settle for the blue ribbon on her 13-year-old grey gelding, Grey Joy. The Irish Sport Horse was just a second adrift of Burke with a time of 6’58.
Burke, whose mother Avril won the title last year, was delighted with the win, “my stirrup iron broke early during my pairs round earlier, so I went nice and quietly around the course, hoping to go clear.”
“I couldn’t believe it reading the results on the way home and seeing that I had won the class! I’m so happy with her and am really looking forward to next year now and seeing how we get on in future competitions as I get to know her more’” she added.
Yvonne Garret Brady put in a faultless performance on her 5-year-old piebald gelding, Hio Mr Unique to win the Young Horse division.
The Abbeylands rider was the only competitor in the class to finish on zero penalties to claim the spoils in a time of 7’18, just 6 seconds ahead of the target. Mary Hogan on her 5-year-old chestnut mare, Roden Ruby, picked up 2-time penalties in a time of 7’12 to take the runners-up spot for Slieve Bloom.
Garret Brady said, “it was a great course with plenty of questions, a great education for horse and rider. My horse was sired by Pappenheimer who jumped up to grand prix level for Great Britain.”
“We bought him last October in Fethard Co Tipperary, he hadn’t much done but it was very clear that he loved to jump so we put a huge amount of time into his flatwork over the winter as he was green in this respect, I’d like to thank my husband Peter who gave me a huge amount of help and advice in this area as it definitely stood to the horse,” she added.
Karen MacGrath won the Open and Advanced Open division on her 18-year-old bay gelding, Helluvaguy who had a clean jumping sheet but racked up 46-time penalties after the Pallasgreen resident was too quick across the country in a time of 5’34.
The Twinfort rider was runner-up at the Equipeople AIRC Eventing Championships at Annaharvey Farm last month.
Meanwhile in the pairs competitions, Deirdre Cronin (Ardsbeg Buddy) and Louise Begley (Tara Durrow Magic) ran out victors in the Advanced Primary division. They were the only pair to finish their round with nothing to add in a time of 8’05.
Inishowen’s Dawn McAllister (Farrah) Samantha O’Neill (Moytown Joey) had to settle for second place after they picked up 10-time penalties on 7’42.
Over half the field in the Intermediate section were clear jumping but only one pair came home within the allotted time to finish on a clean sheet. The Slieve Bloom pair of Jan Boons (Lorrha Lady) and Sinead Boyd (Hollpark Lady) were just five seconds off the target of 7’12 to claim the spoils for the Offaly based club.
Tir Conaill’s Eamonn O’Donnell (Cody Star) and Mark Ward (Wild Child) were next best with 2-time penalties in a time of 7’02 to take the blue ribbons home to Donegal.
A last-minute pairing of Coole Lane’s Leonard Reamsbottom (Lightening Spirit) and Tynagh’s Thomas Daniels (Barnaboy Jackeen) proved worthwhile after they won the Mixed Pairs division. Daniels was a late addition after another rider withdrew. The winning pair were the only combination to jump clear over the timber in 6’24 but picked up 26-time penalties.
The Schneider sisters, Laura and Emily, were second after they picked up 30 jumping and 42-time penalties.
Almost 45 clubs from around the country took part in the final championships of the year in the Association of Irish Riding Clubs programme of events which saw the majority of its programme take place since activities resumed last June.