Butler scores win for Ireland as international action resumes

Bonheiden BR Farm
FREESTYLE: Right, Irish Pony Dressage rider Louise Hooijen and ‘Valhallas Zorro’ took the win in the Freestyle to Music class at Montefalco CDIP in Italy. (FW17-505NN)

ON the first full weekend of international competition since the forced break following the EHV-1 virus outbreak in Europe, Meath’s Alexander Butler claimed victory for Ireland in the two-star Grand Prix at Bonheiden in Belgium on Sunday, April 18.

12 of the 64 starters made it into the jump-off, where an excellent second round clear in 32.67 seconds saw Butler take victory with the 14-year-old stallion ‘Chilli B’, finishing almost a second and a half ahead of Belgian runner-up Pieter Devos with ‘Jade VD Bisschop’. Ireland was also represented in the jump-off by Wexford’s Harry Allen and he went on to take sixth place with the 10-year-old gelding ‘Guinness’.

GRAND PRIX WIN: Above right, Darragh Kenny and ‘Idalville D’Esprit’ won the $35,000 National Grand Prix at ESP Spring II in Florida. (FW17-504NN)

Speaking after his win, Alexander Butler was delighted to be back competing following the disruption caused by Covid-19 followed by the EHV-1 virus: “It has been a very slow year, but now hopefully we can keep going. I have a nice string of horses that have the ability to compete at the big shows and am looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Offaly’s Darragh Kenny continued his excellent form when taking victory in the $35,000 National Grand Prix at ESP Spring II in Florida on Sunday, April 18, filling two of the top three places. Kenny guided ‘Idalville D’Esprit’, owned by Heathman Farm LLC to victory, while he also filled third spot with ‘Scarlett Du Sart Z’, owned by Vlock Show Stables, LLC.

“He’s an exceptionally talented horse,” Kenny commented. “He had a great record with Eric, jumping some really big Grand Prix classes and was fantastic. I think the horse is incredible and I’ve just been building him up slowly, but his jump feels amazing. He feels like he can jump anything and do anything, so I’m really excited.

“I wanted to get to know the horse more than anything,” Kenny explained of his plan for the jump-off. “He jumped fantastic in the first round and that was the first jump-off I’ve done on him. I wanted to see what my boundaries were and how fast I could go. He was brilliant. He was careful, rideable and he jumped great, so I was really, really happy with him.”

Hooijen takes superb victory in Italian Freestyle

Irish Pony Dressage rider Louise Hooijen and Valhallas Zorro scored an impressive 72.7% to take a fantastic victory in the Freestyle to Music class at Montefalco CDIP in Italy on Sunday. The combination also placed third in both the team and individual classes on Friday and Saturday but had a clear victory in the Kur with a winning margin of over 4%.

VICTORY: Alexander Butler and ‘Chilli B’ claimed victory for Ireland in the two-star Grand Prix at Bonheiden in Belgium. (FW17-503NN)

Louise, who joined the Horse Sport Ireland Youth Dressage Programme last year, commented after the prize giving: “It’s great to be out competing again and I’m thrilled with our win in the freestyle.”

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