Irish Riders Triumph at Millstreet International Horse Trials

The final day of the Millstreet International Horse Trials in Co Cork was a triumph for Ireland, as the Irish National Anthem played twice, celebrating victories in both the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ and the Noel C Duggan Engineering CCI4*-L. Sam Watson from Co Carlow, aboard Ballyneety Rocketman, owned with his wife Hannah ‘Sparkles’ Watson, clinched the latter title, marking a significant win.

The FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ victory boosted Irish morale ahead of the Paris Olympic Games this summer. Team manager Dag Albert praised the team’s performance and the selectors’ broad choices for the upcoming squad announcement: “They’re a great bunch of riders and they really wanted to win this on home ground. The scoring was very tight, but they came through in the jumping phases.”

Photos from Gary “George” Monahan

The competition was fierce, with only 11.5 penalties separating the top five teams. The USA took second place, followed by Australia in third, Britain in fourth, and New Zealand in fifth after Clarke Johnstone’s withdrawal left them with three riders.

Jennifer Kuehnle, under pressure as the team anchorwoman, finished eighth individually on Polly Blue Eyes. Patrick Whelan secured ninth on Altitiu, Ian Cassells was 19th on Millridge Atlantis, and Robbie Kearns placed 29th on Ballyvillane OBOS.

New Zealand’s technical delegate Neil Mackenzie-Hall lauded the event: “It was a brilliant competition and a great result. Eventing is about three disciplines and today cross-country proved the decider.”

For Sam Watson, the victory at Millstreet was his first 4* win since 2020. The 2018 world silver medallist, now 38, expressed his delight: “It’s taken a while to get Rocketman to this stage, but he’s here now and it’s great to fly the Irish flag.”

Photos from Gary “George” Monahan

US rising star Cosby Green, 23, achieved her best result on her 2024 European Development Tour, finishing second on Highly Suspicious. Green maintained pressure on Watson with a clear jumping round, showcasing her emerging talent.

The top placings in the international line-up remained unchanged after the jumping phase. Jonelle Price (NZL) secured third on Chilli’s Midnight Star, Caroline Pamukcu (USA) was fourth on She’s The One, and Ryuzo Kitajima (JAP) finished fifth on Corona Xtreme JRA. Britain’s Rose Nesbitt rose to sixth with a clear round on EG Michaelangelo.

Australian Olympian Christopher Burton, who juggles top-level showjumping with eventing, claimed his first win with new ride Shadow Man in the Connolly’s Red Mills CCI4*-S, part of the FEI Nations Cup™. Burton’s cross-country round was impressively executed, coming in 5 seconds within the optimum time of 6 minutes 11 seconds. “That is the monkey off my back,” Burton quipped. “This really is a special horse and I’m privileged to ride him.”

Burton also praised the cross-country course team and designer Mike Etherington-Smith for their efforts in re-routing the track to improve ground conditions after a wet spring. By the time the class started, the going was perfect.

Australia performed strongly, with Kevin McNab finishing second on Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend and sixth on Faro Imp. First-time northern hemisphere competitor Andrew Barnett secured fourth on Go Tosca. Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima took third on Feroza Nieuwmoed, while Ireland’s Ian Cassells, riding four clear rounds, finished fifth on Kellys Quality.

Photos from Gary “George” Monahan

In the CCI3*-L, British riders dominated the top four positions. Sam Ecroyd secured first and fourth on Bloomfield Manuscript and Boleybawn Lecrae, respectively. Tom Grant was runner-up on the Irish Sport Horse Tommy Cruise, and Emily King finished fourth on Maserati de Landetta Z.

Samantha Lissington of New Zealand won the Donagh Hickey Motors CCI2*-L on Mr Cookie Time, leading from start to finish. She also took the top two spots in the Coral Cove Championship with Nadal and Never Know MB.

Ireland’s Elizabeth Power claimed the Foran Equine CCI2*-S by show jumping clear on Balladeer Clintender, overtaking Caitie Slater, who incurred four faults on Derena Super Star. More Irish victories came from Chloe Fagan in the Carr & Davy & Martin CCI1*-Intro on Gervada by Vadamos, and Carla Williamson with Galco in the Pony CCI1*-L.

The event also paid tribute to British rider Georgie Campbell, who tragically died after a fall at Bicton, UK. A two-minute silence was held, uniting the international eventing community in her memory. As Sam Watson received his prize, he reflected on the preciousness of family: “Seeing my wife and kids watching me, my thoughts go straight to Jesse Campbell [husband]. Time is precious and I know the eventing world will wrap their arms around him.”

For full results from Millstreet, visit


Irish Riders Triumph at Millstreet International Horse Trials

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