Girl power dominated the Bottle Green Horse Sport Ireland 2018 Balmoral Grand Prix as GB rider Morgan Kent won the £22,400 class in a four-horse jump-off which had three lady riders.
Some 38 horses competed over a 1m 60 course in glorious sunshine as hundreds of spectators crowded to watch and cheer on their local riders.
Only four horses produced a clean scoresheet, advancing to the second round. Three horses retired as the huge track took its toll, with challenging fences and a triple combination which saw many faulters.
The four riders recording opening clear rounds were Capt Geoff Curran with the Cruising-sired stallion Hallowberry Cruz, GB rider Kerry Brennan with Wellington M, Banbridge-based Canadian Rebecca McGoldrick on Fleur IV and, with the first clear round of the day, Morgan Kent on Drumconnick Verde.
The consistency of McGoldrick over three days, which included third in the Grand Prix and other top placings, saw her lift the Leading International Rider award.
Victoria Bridge horseman Jonathan Smith (20) was named Leading Young Rider of the show after claiming tenth place in the Grand Prix with his chestnut gelding Mulvin Lui, on which he will hopefully represent Ireland on the European Young Rider team this year.
A delighted Kent, who recently became engaged to Sligo showjumper Richard Howley, had jumped two clear rounds on Wednesday and planned to save her horse for yesterday's Grand Prix. Kent met Howley when he was competing with the Michael Whitaker yard.
She explained: "This is my first visit to Balmoral. We brought three horses from our yard in Wetherby, England where we have up to 100 horses including a competition and breeding yard.
"My plan to save Verde for the Grand Prix paid off, it was a huge course and he was very fit."
Kent produced a foot perfect opening clear round and her jump-off round was spectacular as she clocked an unbeatable time of 49.13.
Howley prepped Kent before the jump-off.
He said: "Verde is a small horse, around 16.1, but he has a huge stride and the big grass arena here suited his gallop so he made the most of it. He is really brave and careful."
Kent added: "We have had a memorable time here, the riders stayed at Benedicts Hotel and we have had great hospitality from the show organisers. It really was so well organised and to win the Grand Prix is fantastic."
Capt Curran, of the Irish Army Equitation School in Phoenix Park, Dublin, steered Hallowberry Cruz into second place with a clear round in 50.21.
Hallowberry, a grey stallion by Trevor Coyle's world-beating stallion Cruising, who has won twice before in Balmoral with Alex Butler, was leased to the Irish Army.
Lt Col Tom Freyne, Officer in Command of the Equine School at McKee Barracks, explained: "We leased Hallowberry this year and Geoff and he are a new partnership. He was third in a big class in Vittel, France and we are delighted to take second at Balmoral."
Smith, as leading young rider, is trained by his father Richard and mother Noletta. With seven national horses at Balmoral and two international horses, it needed the whole family to help out, including sisters Lisa (29) and Jamie (27).
McGoldrick on Fleur took third, ahead of Kerry Brennan in fourth with Wellington M.
American rider Adrienne Dixon, who competes with the Greg Broderick team from Offaly, finished fifth in the Grand Prix on the former young horse world champion from Lanaken Belgium, Killossery Kaiden.
Darragh Ryan, who was winded after falling in the Accumulator, took ninth overall for the Broderick team on Rincoola Rua, a beautiful mare by Diamant de Semilly out of the Granard-owned former Balmoral winning mare Rincoola Abu.
Broderick, who had eight horses at Balmoral and four riders, finished 11th overall in the Grand Prix on Duco. Senior international and Olympian Geoff Billington, a well known figure at Balmoral, retired on the course with his stallion Conman.
In the Aon Accumulator International, US rider Veronica Tracy recorded a superb win, her second of the week on Paul Carr's chestnut stallion Zuidam, based at Broderick's yard in Offaly.
Tracy and Zuidam recorded a time of 54.44, scoring 65, despite a strong challenge from McGoldrick on Duco, 65 in 54.66.
Balmoral Showjumping results
Bottle Green and Horse Sport Ireland International Grand Prix: 1 Morgan Kent GB Drumconnick Verde 0-0 49.13; 2 Capt Geoff Curran IRE Hallowberry Cruz 0-0 50.21; 3 Rebecca McGoldrick CAN Fleur IV 0-0 52.36; 4 Kerry Brennan GB 0-4 48.93
AON Risk Services International Accumulator: 1 Veronica Tracy USA Zuidam 65 54.44; 2 Rebecca McGoldrick CAN Duco 65 54.66; 3 Keith Shore GB 65 54.95
Knotts Bakery Four Year Old Event Horse:
1 Colin Halliday, Rosalent (Gilford); 2 Johnny Mulligan, The Ferryman (Banbridge); 3 Anita McClurg, Greenfield Valentino (Broughshane)
Knotts Bakery Five Year Old Event Horse:
1 Orla Cassidy, Grange Ash Sparrow; 2 Colin Halliday, Ferroes AIm; 3 Samuel Smyth, Ballylurgan Imperial Fly
Wilsons Auctions Inter Hunt Chase: 1 Wexford; 2 Fingal A team; 3 equal Tynan and Armagh, Leitrim Harriers