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Seven months to the day after their first class together, Darragh Kenny and Hyperion’s Imothep finish in 12th at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France.
At the start of the show jumping event in Caen, France 153 horse and rider combinations representing 32 countries began the week vying for their chance at becoming World Champions. Day One of competition, a speed class, set the tone for Irishman Darragh Kenny and Hyperion’s 11 year old approved stallion Imothep. Taking a conservative approach with efficient navigation of the course, Kenny and Imothep produced a clear round putting them 40th in the standings after day one. Darragh’s team mate, 19 year old Irishman Bertram Allen, scored the victory for the day and launched Allen to the top of the leaderboard. A promising start for Team Ireland.
Day Two, riders were asked to navigate the 13 jump, 1.60m course designed by Frederic Cottier for points towards the individual and the team standings. For his debut at a World Championship, Imothep was challenged to showcase his ability by negotiating the size and technicality of a world class jumping course. With Darragh at the helm, Imothep’s jumping ability identified him as a global powerhouse as the pair finished the day with only one rail for a four fault score.
Day Three would be the final day for the Team competition as well as an additional score towards the individual. Having been tested by the setting, crowd and course build, Imothep had yet a bigger challenge to overcome, fatigue. This was one of the biggest questions asked of the 11 year old stallion as no one quite knew how much he had left in the tanks. It was a test easily answered as Darragh and Imothep produced a clear round in front of the watchful eyes of the world. Leaping across the finish line, the elated Darragh Kenny pumped his fist in the air as Imothep kicked out in celebration, both expressing their pleasure with successfully completing such a monumental task. Despite a strong effort from all four Irish riders the Team’s 7th place finish left them heartbroken, less than 4 points outside of qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. However, three of the four Irishmen qualified for the third round of the individual on day four, with Kenny and Imothep ending day three in 24th place overall.
In front of the sell-out crowd of 21,000+, the top 30 riders in the world competed in the two stage individual competition on Saturday, which would ultimately determine the final four for Sunday’s Championship. Darragh and Imothep had already overcome many obstacles and outperformed over 130 of the world’s top competitors to give themselves a chance at making it to the Final four. Midway through the first round Imothep’s hooves grazed the back rail of the oxer in the Rolex triple combination which had already been the demise of multiple riders in this first round, but it stayed in place. Nearly every one of the tens of thousands of spectators, collectively holding their breaths, watched as Kenny piloted his Indoctro stallion to the 16th and final jump . Clearing the back rail of the oxer and with a leap across the finish line the crowd roared as the pair was clear! Through the remaining riders, there were only seven others to better where Imothep and Darragh sat in the standings.
In round two, the order of go began with the rider in last place. Darragh’s 8th place ranking after round one meant that he would be going later in the second round. This gave him plenty of time to establish a game plan and see where he could better the rest of his competition. Round two was a true test of skill, stamina and scope as the horses and riders were asked to jump a second monster course. With only an hour to rest in between rounds, the pair entered the arena to an excited crowd of International spectators. With the best of what they had left, Darragh and Imothep navigated the course with maturity and determination, but an unlucky rail at the triple bar jumping into the triple combination along with a single time penalty added 5 faults to their 8.82 score accumulated throughout the week. Ultimately the pair finished 12th overall in the standings, an astounding accomplishment for Darragh and his equine partner, Imothep. A superlative outcome against the best horse and rider combinations in the world today.
When asked about his debut at WEG Darragh Kenny commented, “My experience has been absolutely amazing, for my first WEG, it’s been incredible to finish 12th in the world. It’s unbelievable, I’m very lucky to have the chance to ride such an amazing horse. I think he has stepped up here at the WEG and proved that he is a top championship horse. And that is very exciting for me and for the horse.”
Owner of Hyperion Stud, Vicky Castegren also commented on what had transpired during the week, “ Amazing! Exciting and most of all I am proud. I always believed in this horse but certainly didn’t think we would be at the World Equestrian Games this year. Thanks to Darragh, Team Ireland and Team Hyperion we have given Imothep the chance to find greatness in a tough and humbling sport. I am honored to be a part of Imothep’s life and career, and happy to see the hottest rising star, Darragh Kenny, realize his dreams.”
Next up: LA Masters
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