| BRITISH, Irish and Spanish riders have been dominating the leader board in the second week of the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour at the Oliva Nova resort (Oliva, Valencia province).
Although the first week saw only one UK-based combination in the professional classes, several more arrived in the second week and it appears they are holding their own in this truly international showjumping event which features horses and riders from as far afield as Japan, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
Friday's largest and most prestigious class, the Gold 1.45m (4'9”) saw three Irish riders in the prize money – Bertram Allen riding Bill Twomey's Molly Malone in third place, the country's Olympic team member Niall Talbot on Nicos de la Cense in 11th place, and Cameron Hanley on Dundee VD Dwerse Hagen 16th. Standards were high and all those in the money jumped a double clear with no time faults, as did three others who were unplaced.
Spain and Ireland both netted victories in the Gold 1.4m (4'7”) with the well-known and highly-acclaimed Jesús Garmendia on Calvaro's Koncert in first place and Bertram Allen on Wild Thing coming second, and the top-level Silver 1.4m class seeing Ireland's Kevin Thornton on Kobold von Schlosslihoff second and the UK's Pippa Allen on Espoir 17 10th, allowing her to just slip into the prize money in a competition where three other Irish riders, Niall Talbot, Bertram Allen and the world-renowned Jessica Kürten had disappointing rounds.
This rather made up for Kevin Thornton and Calino getting eliminated in the Silver 1.2m (3'11”), where British riders Amy Carnet and Kate Gygax joined compatriot Kevin Cooper on Bukato who came first with a comfortable two-and-a-half-second margin ahead of Ireland's Joanne Sloan-Allen on Vera.
The Ray sisters from the UK had a disappointing six and eight faults in the top-level amateur competition, the Bronze 1.4m, but MacKenzie made up for this by coming first on her second mount of the class, McKinley III.
Spain got their own back in both the other Bronze classes, with local lass Carmen Llácer winning both the 1.25m (4'1”) on Ideal and the 1.1m (3'7”) on Padua, a whole second ahead of her sister Esther on Rocket Power who came just behind her and made the top two in the lap of honour a family affair.
Brit power hotted up on Saturday – as did Irish, as Jessica Kürten and Arezzo snapped up fourth place in the Gold 1.45m – with Pippa Allen having a good day involving a win in the Silver 1.4m on Espoir 17 and sixth place in the Gold 1.4m on Fromecs Centaya, in which Ireland's Bertram Allen and Wild Thing came second, and Britain's Grant Talbot on Electra winning the Silver 1.2m and compatriot Amy Carnet on Flirt – also a Talbot horse – coming eighth.
But Spain retaliated nicely in the Gold 1.3m (4'3”) with famous faces Carolina Aresu on Xica and Diana Marsa on Oural d'Emiralia coming second and third respectively, and in the Bronze 1.1m with Esther and Carmen Llácer on Rocket Power and Padua coming first and sixth, Rocket Power living up to his name and beating the super-speedy Gaston AZ ridden by Spain's María Tereas Ballester and Primère ridden by Britain's Ashley Ray into second and third by a comfortable three-and-a-half-second margin – although it was Ashley's turn for victory on Hasard de Favi in the Bronze 1.25m and a near-miss for first place in the Bronze 1.4m for sister MacKenzie on Murphy's Magic Touch.
On Sunday, the laps of honour were mostly led by Spanish riders, with wins for Blanca Gil on Jivaro du Fraigneau and Diana Marsa on Oural d'Emiralia in the Silver and Gold 1.3m classes, three Spanish riders coming second, third and fourth – Adolfo Tamamés, Luis Cabanas and Belén Serratosa – in the Bronze Grand Prix and Carmen Llácer on a roll this weekend coming second on Ideal in the Bronze 1.25m, where third place went to Spain's Ana Martínez on Cassandra, and on Padua in the Bronze 1.1m, won by Ashley Ray on Primère.
Other than Ashley, the British Isles were not entirely out of the prize money on Sunday, since Ireland's Bertram Allen on Zenzation scooped up the Gold 1.4m in a tight finish, beating his nearest rival by just 0.03 seconds.
Once again, the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour takes a day off today (Monday) and re-starts on Tuesday with the first of three days' worth of 'training' classes for young horses aged five, six and seven before the last three days of 'serious' competition kicks off on Friday – the final weekend of high fences and eye-watering prize money until the second phase of the Tour, which starts on March 19.
Photograph 1: Young Spanish rider Carmen Llácer wins the Bronze 3'7” on bay mare Padua
Photograph 2: Teeside youngster Pippa Allen, the highest-ranking British rider so far, won the Gold 4'9” on Espoir 17. She is pictured here in the seven-year-old class on her bay mare Camilla