Belfast Telegraph

Alex tops as local riders dominate festive shows

 

Success: Alex Finney
Success: Alex Finney

By Ruth Loney

Banbridge international pony showjumper Alex Finney has won the FEI Pony Cup Grand Prix in Mechelen, Belgium and taken overall second in the World Cup final as Irish riders dominated at the post Christmas Show.

Rhys Williams, of County Clare, was overall league FEI Pony Cup champion, with Finney a close second and Banbridge's John McEntee taking third.

As the pony riders excelled in Europe, Derry rider Daniel Coyle won the Old Lodge Stud 1m 50 jump off class at Liverpool Show with Donjo.

All Ireland showjumping chairman, Dungannon's Eamon Rice, commented: "Rhys Williams is a polished, accomplished and very competitive rider. Alex Finney's win in the Mechelen Grand Prix was brilliant and with John McEntee in third, it was a fantastic achievement all round. They have been consistent in their results on the FEI Pony Cup tour.

"We have had fantastic results internationally over the Christmas holidays in as great end to the season. Our pony riders are great horse riders of the future and will make the transition easily."

Alex Finney's Mechelen Grand Prix win with Still Got Me was exceptional with Rhys Williams taking third and John McEntee fourth. In the Mechelen final leg of the FEI trophy, Williams took the honours ahead of Finney with McEntee in third.

Alex's mother Jean Finney praised trainers Lucy Allen, Becky Cullen, Angela Waras and Lyndsay McCall for their hard work in guiding the riders to success.

Peter Bollen, Mechelen Show Director who founded the Pony Cup, said: "I wanted to create a World Cup for pony riders and I'm happy to see the concept established. We have signed the contract for next year."

Daniel Coyle's win at Liverpool saw him claim victory from a 10 horse jump off. "I was lucky enough to be last to go. So I knew what I had to do," he said.

The 11 year old Donjo won with the fastest clear in 31.14 ahead of GB's William Whitaker on board RmF Echo, clear in 33.11.

Pony showjumper Charlotte McCracken, from County Armagh, enjoyed a great finale to her year when she took runner up in the mini majors at Olympia, London teamed with eventing superstar Michael Jung.

Two gold medal European pony showjumpers, Niamh McEvoy, Omagh, and John McEntee, Banbridge, have been nominated for the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards later this month in what has been a memorable year for the Ulster Region of Showjumping Ireland.

As the new season begins, riders will be competing at the Florida tours in Wellington until March and sunshine tours in Spain and Portugal.

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