Rhys Williams leads all-Irish podium in FEI Jumping Ponies Trophy Final
- 30 December 2019, 21:08
Ireland claimed the FEI Jumping Ponies Trophy for the third consecutive year and completely dominated the podium when Rhys Williams romped to victory ahead of compatriots Alex Finney in runner-up spot and John McEntee in third, at the 2019 Final at Mechelen in Belgium today.
Williams easily made the cut into the Final when finishing fifth at both the first leg of the qualifying series in Herning (DEN) in October and the third leg in Stuttgart (GER) in November.
There were three days of action at Mechelen to decide the eventual champion, and the 15-year-old schoolboy from Ennis in County Clare finished fourth in Friday’s opener and was third in Saturday’s second class.
A total of 14 pony-and-rider combinations went into the first round of today’s deciding competition, and at the finish, with previous results calculated into points, Williams riding K-Little Hero d’18 was crowned champion, ahead of Alex Finney in second, while John McEntee in third completed an all-Irish podium.
“I’m delighted with the outcome today – Hero was jumping his heart out!” said newly-crowned champion Williams who, riding CES Cruson, took U14 individual gold and team silver at the 2018 European Youth Championships in Fontaintainebleau (FRA).
Talking about the pony that carried him to victory today he explained, “Hero has a horse pedigree but he never grew and he’s all power!”
His father, Adrian Williams, is a specialist pony-producer at Parc Stables in Ennis and along with Ian Fearon and Marie Burke, both former Irish internationals, trains Rhys who has already enjoyed a lot of success in the sport. He coped admirably with the pressure today.
“Going into the final round I just tried my best to keep my cool. I knew that was all I had to do and it’s a dream come true! To come to Mechelen this year and to be at the same show as the 5-Star riders and share the same arenas – its such a great experience and I’ll be back again hopefully!”
Mechelen Show Director, Peter Bollen, was more than pleased today with the development of the series which is going from strength to strength and highlighting talent. Ireland’s Seamus Hughes-Kennedy won the inaugural Final in 2017, and in 2019 scooped European Junior team gold and the Seven-Year-Old Final title at the FEI WBFSH Championships in Lanaken (BEL).
The 2018 champion, Katie Power, has enjoyed a hugely successful 2019 season and this weekend the title returns to the Emerald Isle for the third time.
“I wanted to create a World Cup for pony riders and I’m very happy to see the concept is established now and getting more and more support. We have the contract signed for next year again and we will try to get one or two more qualifiers for the new season to make the series even stronger” Mr Bollen said.