Despite a sparkling round from Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound, Ireland failed to shine on cross country at the European Eventing Championships in Poland today, and hopes of a top three team place began to fade.
Sitting in seventh of 13 competing nations after dressage, it was expected that the Irish team would rally on the second phase of the championships and move up to challenge for a medal, as cross country is traditionally regarded as the day when Ireland pulls back the points.
However, though Ennis and her 13 year-old gelding came home with just 0.8 time penalties and shot up the individual rankings from 14th to seventh, the rest of the team didn’t fare quite so well.
Austin O’Connor and Kilpatrick Knight had an unfortunate fall on course, and though both horse and rider were not seriously hurt, their automatic elimination left the team without a discard.
Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello, usually strong on cross country, came home with 40 jumping and 24.8 time penalties, while Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker were somewhat better on 20 jumping penalties and 18.80 time penalties, but neither performance was enough to hoist the Irish team any higher than seventh at the close of the day.
One bright interval came from Irish individual rider Trish Ryan, who completed the course on Dunrath Eclipse with no jumping faults but 24.8 time penalties on the board left her in overnight 30th place.
At the top of the table, leaders Germany were unseated when record-breaking dressage competitor Bettina Hoy had a fall and subsequent elimination at the table fence with Seigneur Medicott, and though pathfinder Julia Krajewski, riding Samourai du Thot, also picked up 20 penalties for a run-out, sterling performances from Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob) and triple European champion Michael Jung (fischerRocana FST) meant that the team didn’t fall further than second place.
Great Britain swept into the lead after three brilliant clear rounds from team rookie Ros Canter on Allstar B, Kristina Cook (Billy the Red) and anchorman Nicola Wilson (Bulana), but they still have just two fences in hand over the Germans, who are renowned for their show jumping skills.
Ireland is currently on 249.20 penalties at Strzegom, while the British leaders are on 113.90, so dreams of a team medal are not as vivid in the Irish camp as they might have been two days ago.
Hopes now rest on tomorrow’s individual show jumping performance by Sarah Ennis, who is on 39.40 penalties against German leader Ingrid Klimke’s score of 30.30, a difficult but not impossible gap to breach.
••Update Sunday – due to overnight horse withdrawals by other countries, Ireland has moved up two places in the team rankings before show jumping, from seventh to fifth••