Latta and Ennis in contention to end Ireland’s 59-year Badminton famine

  • 11 May 2024, 19:09

A clear round could give Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson, pictured here jumping at the European Eventing Championship, a shot at history (Irish Eventing Times)

Debutant and veteran in top five after cross-country

Lucy Latta and Sarah Ennis are in contention to end a 59-year wait for an Irish victory at the five-star the five-star Mars Badminton Horse Trials, sitting in the top five after today’s cross-country round.
Major Eddie Boylan secured the notable Irish success in 1965, riding the 17.1hh Army Equitation School horse, Durlas Eile.
Austin O’Connor went close to emulating Boylan last year when finishing third on Colorado Blue. To put context into what he achieved and what Latta and Ennis are attempting, O’Connor was the first Irish athlete to podium for 40 years, when two-time selected Olympian and future legendary horseracing trainer, Jessica Harrington made the frame.
Latta leads the charge in third place ahead of tomorrow’s jumping round, on what is her debut at the illustrious competition.
Riding what is her only horse, RCA Patron Saint, a 13-year-old gelding owned by Leslie Crampton, the Wexford part-timer has been a revelation.
The 27-year-old, a cousin of Irish eventer Esib Power and the aforementioned Harrington’s former Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power, Latta is following in the footsteps of her grandfather William Powell Harris, who competed at Badminton and was a reserve for the 1972 Munich Olympics.
RCA Patron Saint followed up an opening dressage score of 36.8 with the best cross-country round of the day, registering just 0.4 time faults to climb 43 places, behind Tim Price (NZL) on Vitali, and British legend William Fox-Pitt on Grafennacht.
In contrast, Ennis is an eventing veteran The Dunboyne-based rider was a member of Team Ireland’s silver medal winning team at the World Equestrian Games in 2018, where she also finished fifth overall, and has competed at Olympics and European Championships.
The 49-year-old is building a fantastic partnership with her 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Grantstown Jackson, the son of Clover Brigade bred in Waterford by Caroline Widger.
The pair were in 42nd after registering a score of 36.4 in the dressage but the third best cross-country round of proceedings that gave up just 3.6 time penalties, enabled them to climb to fifth.
The performances were all the more notable given the attritional nature of the course, with the heat an added ingredient, as 21 combinations were either eliminated or retired and none recording a clear round.
Little wonder that Ireland’s High Performance Director for Senior Eventing, Dag Albert, was buoyant this evening.
“It was a very good day,” said Albert. “The course caused a fair bit of trouble and a couple of ours went extremely well.
“Both Lucy and Sarah rode very well. They were positive without going crazy. They got in a really good rhythm and went out and executed the plan they had formulated as they walked the course.
“The horses felt good for them all the way around and were fit enough for the conditions. They galloped all the way around. Lucy’s round was incredible for someone making her debut.
“It’s very exciting now. The plan tomorrow will be for them to jump clear and put some pressure on the others. That’s the plan anyway! Anything is possible. They’re both capable of jumping clear rounds.
“We’ve just checked the horses with the vets and those two are looking very good tonight so they should sail through the trot-up tomorrow hopefully. That’s the next thing we’ve got to do tomorrow morning. But we’re feeling fairly positive about that tonight.”

Grantstown Jackson (ISH) – 2011 gelding by Clover Brigade (ISH) out of Winning Lass (TB) by Right Win (TB). Breeder: Caroline Widger. Owner: Peter Cole & Susanne Francke. Rider: Sarah Ennis (IRL).