Ulster riders out to make leap towards Dublin glory
American-based Londonderry showjumper Daniel Coyle returns to the international arena at the Stena Sealink 145th Dublin Horse Show this week having won more Grand Prix events in North America this year than anyone else.
Last year, he and Carrickfergus rider Christopher Megahey thrilled the crowds when they divided the Puissance big red wall high jump competition on the Saturday evening of the prestigious show.
Coyle returns to Dublin to contest the international classes with his consistent horse Cita.
Bertram Allen, Billy Twomey, Peter Smyth, Dermott Lennon, Darragh Kenny, Shane Breen and Jonathan Smyth are just some of the main arena names to watch out for.
The most important equestrian event in Ireland begins today at Ballsbridge and runs until Sunday.
Since the days when Ulster owners and riders put their horses and ponies on board trains in Belfast and Portadown en route to Dublin, the show still possesses an aura which attracts thousands of showjumping enthusiasts from around the world.
It costs the organising Royal Dublin Society €5m to stage the annual extravaganza, and the not for profit event boasts a prize fund of more than €1m.
Northern Ireland has many international and national riders competing this week, including a host of young guns who are set to make their names in the national age classes.
Portadown's Lucy Morton and her horse Delton, part of the Irish team who were silver medal winners at the European Children on Horses Championships, will be a combination to watch.
The exclusive four-year-old class at Simmonscourt will see Fermanagh rider Catherine Thornton compete with her own horse, Coachella, and Lurgan poultry farmer David Campbell's Darco Q.
Thornton, from Florencecourt, won the opening four-year-old qualifying event in Maryville with Coachella and is always a consistent competitor in Dublin.
Caitlin Taggart, from Fermanagh, Derry's Olivia Roulston and John Mulligan, from Banbridge, will also contest the four-year-old Mo Choi Championship.
Thornton again features in the five-year-old Championship with her own ABC Caruso and HSC Sunny Jim. Tempo horseman Gabriel Tunny has qualified his own Candy Man for the six-year-olds, as has Thornton, with her own Drummiller Sensation.
Roulston is on board the Dromore family team horses of Lisa and Phillip Rosbotham, having qualified Lisa's Miss Valent and Phillip's Avalent.
Strabane's international ace Peter Smyth is on board Nigel Kenny's Derrycastle Sensation, while Clones rider Clement McMahon competes on his own Hilton Banner.
The LHK seven- and eight-year-old international class features Maguiresbridge man James Hogg with his late father Edgar's Intuitive. Edgar, who passed away in June, was a popular and successful breeder and owner, and saw James win in Dublin last year and at Balmoral in 2018.
Peter Smyth, who has excelled each year with Robin Bingham's Templepatrick Welcome Limerick, bred by Dorothea Wilson in Templepatrick, is another contender for the seven and eight-year-olds.
However, he can expect a strong challenge from his nephew Jonathan Smyth on board Mulvin Lui, owned by his mother Noletta and Roy Craig.
Randalstown rider Jodie Creighton will partner Kathryn Smiley's Newmarket Alice in the Young Riders events, while Jonathan Smyth has Clive Cathers' Ping Ball and his own Charlton Clio entered.
This year's Irish team for the Nations Cup on Friday is made up of Cameron Hanley (Quirex), Billy Twomey (Kimba Flamenco), Paul O'Shea (Skara Glen's Machu Pichu) and Mark McAuley (Utchan De Belheme).
Eight teams in all will compete for the Aga Khan Trophy - Holland, Italy, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Britain, USA and Mexico.
The event will see the grandstands packed to capacity as top-quality global riders battle it out to earn a share of the prize fund of €250,000.
Saturday's Land Rover Puissance is a highlight of the weekend, but Sunday's Longines International Grand Prix of Ireland will have the toughest track of the week and the highest and widest fences.
The €200,000 Grand Prix prize fund will be contested by horses which have qualified for the event and will feature five-star jumping at its best, including a huge water fence which takes accuracy and a strong gallop.
Ladies Day takes place on Thursday, where a €10,000 gift card from Dundrum Town Centre is up for grabs for the best dressed lady.
Competitors don't just feature in the showjumping competitions, they also take part in the ridden hunter classes, performance, eventer classes, working hunters, Connemaras, side saddle, breeding and pony show classes.
Traditional breeds such as Connemaras and Irish Draught, including performance mares and foals, ensure that there is something for everyone in Dublin, from the hobby breeder to the serious international competition supplier.