Veteran Lennon heads NI line-up eyeing Dublin Horse Show joy
The Stena Line Dublin Horse Show 2019 kicks off at 7.30am this morning when the Aga Khan Nations Cup team open with their annual breakfast in the Intercontinental Hotel.
With more than €1.2m on offer in prize money, Northern Ireland's showjumpers, eventers, show riders and breeders are ready for the world's most exciting equestrian event, based at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge.
This is the 146th Horse Show, and it is celebrating 100 years since women were allowed to compete.
Former world champion Dermott Lennon from Ballyskeagh, Banbridge is one of the veterans to return to the show, but a plethora of young guns are most certainly planning to bring home silverware.
Olivia Roulston of Londonderry and Fermanagh's Catherine Thornton should certainly pose strong challenges in the Simmonscourt National arenas, and are hoping to qualify for the main ring Championships.
Rising star Luke Campbell from Aghalee is a talent to be reckoned with, and David Campbell, after winning his Dublin ticket at the Meadows, will be hoping to repeat his success.
Moy showjumper Frank Curran competes in the youngster international eight-year-old class in the main arena, while neighbour India Heffron challenges in the 128cm pony classes.
Young competitors such as Jodie Creighton of Randalstown, Banbridge's Robert Russell and the McEntee siblings from Dromore will likely be in the ribbons.
Omagh rider Niamh McEvoy, who had a double success in the pony rings last year, is in form.
Augher's Hugo McAlpine is qualified in the 1.25-1.30m Young Riders, while Fermanagh's Matthew Conlon and Cormac Teggart are starters in the children on horses event.
Maguiresbridge's James Hogg should be a strong contender for success in the young horse international classes with his multiple winner Intuitive, while Donacloney's Ross Mulholland partners the Coolmore showjumping team's Ikarus.
Mulholland is based with Cian O'Connor's team in Ashbourne, where he both trains young riders and competes.
Moville horseman Kenneth Graham and Pacino Amiro will enjoy the young horse international eight-year-olds, but Curran, Lennon, Mulholland and Hogg have their work cut out as leading Great Britain competitors Scot Brash and Ben Maher have Hello Franklin and Ginger Blue in the same class.
Olympic champion Steve Guerdat has also been invited to compete in this section and brings one entry. Lorenzo de Luca, the Italian rider who is part of the Nations Cup team, is also competing with Bellisima Ter Wilgen Z.
Ireland's senior international riders for the main classes include Darragh Kenny, Peter Moloney, Cian O'Connor, Paul O'Shea and Shane Sweetnam. They'll aim to win the Aga Khan against a strong Italian, British and US challenge.
The Mexicans, who won last year, cannot be ruled out seeing as their horses have appeared less on the five star circuit and could be fresh.
Federico Fernandez, who survived a serious air crash and has had 57 plastic surgery operations to his face, is bringing the Ulster-bred Guru.
The Stena Line Dublin Horse Show has a packed programme until Sunday, culminating in the €350,000 Longines Grand Prix.
Diane Poole of Stena Line said: "We are looking forward to another amazing show. Friday's Aga Khan Nations Cup is not something to be missed."