Francis Connors ensured that the winners prize stayed on his home-soil at Ballylawn Stud, when he won the opening round of the Connolly’s RED MILLS Munster Grand Prix League yesterday.
The Waterford rider’s winning round came aboard Hilda Anthony’s brilliant mare Uskerty Diamond Lady. They dominated this series in 2014 and on this form looks the one to beat again this season.
This is the fourth year that Connolly’s RED MILLS have been title sponsor of the Munster Grand Prix League. Speaking at the opening round in Ballylawn, RED MILLS sales representative John Gerety said, “We are delighted to come on board once again this season and it is really encouraging the see even more venues added to the list, including Kingdom County this coming weekend. We are getting excellent feedback from competitors around the shows who are using our products and our nutrition team are always on hand to offer advice to all horse owners.”
Course builder Tom Holden brought the best out of the 25 starters, with nine making it through to the jump-off. Marion Hughes had set the early target with the Team Z7 owned eight-year-old gelding Laith. The Kilkenny riders time of 42.35 seconds did look beatable. However several combinations ran into trouble when jumping across the second last fence on the course and it quickly became apparent that clear rounds would be at a premium.
Paul Beecher did manage to keep all the fences standing with Ikona VT Recht Eind and would hold on to take third at the finish. Francis Connors round with Uskerty Diamond Lady was incredibly fast, stopping the clock in 38.79 seconds and pushing Marion Hughes into second.
Last to jump was Paddy O’Donnell from Fenor, Waterford and the former national champion produced a super effort with Harristown Gold. He beat the target time set by Francis Connors but agonizingly the last fence hit the floor to leave them in fourth.
Francis Connors also finished fifth with Capitol Cruise, just ahead of Paul Beecher in sixth with Loughnatousa Eric and Jason Higgins seventh with Hadine Van’t Zorgvliet. Tipperary’s Darragh Ryan took the Schockemohle Sports sponsored leading young rider prize when finishing eighth with Furistos Lad.
The Connolly’s RED MILLS Munster Grand Prix league now moves to Kingdom County Show on Sunday next, 10 May.
Result – Connolly’s RED MILLS Munster Grand Prix League – Ballylawn Show, Waterford – 4 May 2015
1. Francis Connors/Uskerty Diamond Lady 0/0 38.79
2. Marion Hughes/Laith 0/0 42.35
3. Paul Beecher/Ikona VT Recht Eind 0/0 49.76
4. Paddy O Donnell/Harristown Gold 0/4 38.07
5. Francis Connors/Capitol Cruise 0/4 41.00
6. Paul Beecher/Loughnatousa Eric 0/4 44.45
7. Jason Higgins/Hadine Van’t Zorgvliet 0/4 44.57
8. Darragh Ryan/Furistos Lad 0/4 51.09
9 Into Jump-off