Irish Eventing team in 13th place following opening Dressage phase at Tokyo Olympics

  • 31 July 2021, 08:05

The Irish Eventing team lie in 13th place overall following the conclusion of the opening Dressage phase of the Eventing competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. With just over 30 penalties separating the top 13 teams, the competition is still wide open heading into the Cross Country.

Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis and Austin O’Connor

Managed by Sally Corscadden, the Irish trio of Sam Watson (Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH), Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue) and Sarah Ennis (Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH), are on a combined score of 110.4 while the medal positions are currently occupied by Britain (78.3), Germany (80.4) and New Zealand (86.4).

Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) (Photo: Sportsfile)

Carlow’s Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) are best of the Irish individually and are in 38th place on 34.30. Speaking after his Dressage test, Watson said:

“I was pleased with the horse and I think the foundations were there. The softness and suppleness was there, the relaxation was there. I possibly didn’t give him enough punch and enough X-Factor for what they are looking for at the Olympic Games. It was a little safe and then I made a small mistake, which was on me, I shouldn’t be missing changes at the Olympic Games. I am pretty happy with the horse, I am a little disappointed with the mark and there are a few things that I could have done better.”

There was a late change to the Irish team when Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua (ISH) were replaced by Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue on veterinary advice. Speaking about the change Sam Watson commented:

“It is really, really hard for Cathal. He is disappointed but thankfully the mare is in good shape. If she needs to come in and show jump, she is in good order to do so. Whether it was the journey over or something else, it took a bit out of her and it would be a risk for cross country. We have a really strong team member in Austin. It was a very difficult decision for management, very difficult for Cathal and his owners and there is no getting away from that.”

All Irish Equestrian athletes at the Games are wearing yellow ribbons in memory of Irish teenager Tiggy Hancock who tragically lost her life following a fall while June of this year.

Sam Watson explained:

“At the age of fourteen she was a really special person and a really talented young rider and tragically last month she had a fall that she didn’t survive. She was someone I was lucky enough to train with and I think she was someone that could have been at the Olympics one day. To remember her is special and very important to us.”

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue (Photo: Sportsfile)

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue scored 38.0 in their Dressage test and they lie in 49th position. Commenting on his performance, Cork native O’Connor said:

“Coming out of the ring and seeing that score, I am naturally disappointed. There is no hiding that fact. I don’t know where it went wrong, I think the horse got a little bit shy in the ring. From a horse that has been doing good flying changes in the ring, he was seeing imaginary show jumps tonight and getting a bit high. It is over now and the beauty of this sport is that there are two more days to look forward to. I think being under the lights might have had an affect to his performance. There is shadows, it is a new venue but it is the same for everybody. I am excited and looking forward to the next few days and we will give it our best shot.”

Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) (Photo: Sportsfile)

Ireland’s final team member, Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) performed their test in the early hours of this morning and are lying just behind O’Connor in 50th place on a score of 38.1.

Speaking about her test Ennis said:

“Being very honest, I am very disappointed. We really thought we had him in a position to get a much better mark. He has been going amazing all week. He has been very happy in this heat, he is not struggling with it. He just got nervous when he went into the ring. It is very difficult, he is so he is and he gets nervous every so often. We just have to hope that the rest of it goes a bit better. COVID was a factor today as he is lacking a bit of ring practise. I would normally have been over to England two or three times by this time of year and I went over once. It was so difficult to travel.”

Sarah Ennis is now looking forward to the next phase of the competition:

“I can’t change my mark, he worked really hard and I couldn’t have asked more of him. Hopefully he behaves for the next phase! It would have been nicer to have been in one of the top five teams heading out. It would have been really exciting but it won’t be a dressage competition. The time is going to be really influential. It is like an ERM [Event Riders Masters], it is going to be really fast and quick and I think there are going to be a lot of time penalties out there.”

Meath native Ennis gave her take on the Tokyo Cross Country course:

“It will depend how they get into it. It will be nice to get over the first few fences and get a feel for it. There are a lot of fences in the first three minutes. It comes up really fast. The fourth fence in a water jump and there are four water fences in total. It all comes up really quick and there is a coffin at the end that I would love to jump but I think it is going to be really risky. It is there to tempt you and you are so close to home. It will be so exciting to watch and I can’t wait to watch it and ride it. There will be no time for taking deep breaths.”

Having been based at Equestrian Park for the Dressage phase of the Games, all the Eventing horses now travel to Sea Forest Cross Country Course as Sarah Ennis explained:

“It is about an hour away. Some of our stuff has already been brought over and the rest will be leaving shortly. The horses leave at lunchtime today. They will get to go into lovely air conditioned stables again over there and we will get to hack them out and show them around the grounds so they will know where they are. They will go Cross Country tomorrow and they will be shipped back here to Equestrian Park again. There is a lot of travelling, they will be good travellers after this!”

Germany’s Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH hold the individual lead on a score of 21.10 with Britain’s Oliver Townend in silver with the Irish Sport Horse Ballaghmor Class on 23.6. China’s Alex Hua Tian currently lies in the bronze medal position with Don Geniro on 23.9.

The Cross Country phase of the Olympic Eventing competition starts at 11.45pm tonight Irish time and is live on RTE TV. Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco start just after midnight at 12.18am, while Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue are off at 1.30am. Sarah Ennis & Horseware Woodcourt Garrison will be the last Irish team member to go at 2.36am.

The Olympic Eventing team and individual medals will be decided following the final Show Jumping phase which takes place on Bank Holiday Monday.


Sam Watson with Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) – 2009 gelding by Tullabeg Fusion [ISH] out of Tullabeg Heidi (unk) by Ardenteggle Sir (IPSA). Breeder: Nicholas Cousins (Wexford). Owner: Vahe Bogossian

Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) [was Woodcourt Garrison] – 2009 gelding by Garrison Royal (ISH) out of Davitt Star (ISH) by Furisto (HANN). Breeder: Patrick J Kearns (Laois). Owner: Breda Kennedy

Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue (SHBGB) – 2009 grey gelding by Jaguar Mail out of Rock Me Baby by Rock Kind. Breeder: Mellon Stud, Owner Austin O’Connor and The Salty Syndicate