HAVING run in the wettest of conditions just three weeks ago, and with the ground left a quagmire, it had been a daunting task for Rodney O’Donnell and his team at Hillcrest to put the land back in order for last weekend’s well supported fixture.

This they did however, and by using new land, by rolling and spiking and reversing the tracks, they produced interesting courses that run over going that was close to perfect. The feedback from the riders was both appreciative and positive, with EI 115 winner Alison Holden prompted to comment: “I can’t believe that they have managed to put the ground right in such a short time. It was so good today I was happy to give both my horses a proper gallop.”

Hillcrest is one of many venues to consistently upgrade their facilities, and the improvements offered by the two all-weather jumping arenas is immeasurable. By the sheer nature of the terrain, the siting of the dressage arenas is not yet ideal, but O’Donnell is never short of ideas, and this will likely to be remedied towards the end of the year.

EI115 (O) and EI 115 (Restricted)

The venue has always been a lucky one for Co Waterford veterinary surgeon Alison Holden, so it was apt that it should provide her with the first double of her career. First up was the experienced campaigner O My Balladeer who was the pillar to post winner in the seven-strong EI 115 (O).

Despite carrying four penalties from the show jumping, Holden completed four marks in front of Ian Cassells (Rosconnell Alto) as well as the third-placed British visitor Eleanor Hope aboard her former Blair Castle victor, Limestone Romeo.

The winning pair now are on track for the long format showcase at Millstreet, and may also run at Ballindenisk this weekend. “As he gets older, he is harder to get fit,” explains Holden of the popular son of My O My. “He’s quite lazy, so he needs a few competitive outings.”

Never content with the runner-up spot, Ian Cassells picked up momentum to fill the top two placings from the 22 runners in the EI 115 restricted division. He did not have things quite his own way however, as although the cross-country proved straightforward for all, Tony Hurley’s show jumping track was influential. A short distance to the final vertical caught out several contenders, including most expensively, the dressage leaders Nicola Ennis and Out Of Print.

Their error allowed Cassells to forge ahead with Frances Corkery’s Shanbo Superflex, as well as filling second aboard John Glynn’s mare Shanaclough Carmen. Bred by the Shanbo Stud, the winner is an eight-year-old daughter of Flexible (dam by Kildalton King) and, bought through the Go For Gold Sale back in 2019, has been with Cassells for less than a year.

She has since come through the ranks quite quickly and, described by her rider as an ‘extremely talented’ individual, the mare now heads for the three-star short class at Millstreet next week.

Less than a mark adrift in third, young rider Emily Barratt enjoyed another good run with her recent Tyrella (1.10) winner BGS Mikado.