Irish sent clear by class of Doyle and Darragh

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The Independent Online

Ireland moved further ahead in the inaugural Anglo-Irish Challenge at the Royal Windsor Horse Show yesterday. The new contest, although still far too complicated, began to look as though it might have a promising future once the rules and presentation have been fine-tuned.

Yesterday's leg, which was confined to the eight-team riders from each country, was run as a pairs contest in which the Irish duo of Edward Doyle and Paul Darragh were the victors. They defeated another Irish pair - Dermott Lennon and Harry Marshall - with Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton best of the British in third place, followed by the Irishmen Peter Charles and Cameron Hanley in fourth.

With each country scoring half a point for any pair finishing in the top four, Ireland collected 1.5pts to Britain's 0.5. The overall score is now 3-1.5 in Ireland's favour as riders prepare for the two remaining legs of the contest.

Yesterday, Doyle jumped clear over the "power" course on Cor D'Almez and Darragh whizzed faultlessly round the "speed" section on Leap of Faith to become the winning pair. Both horses have curious backgrounds.

Cor D'Almez once changed hands for a million dollars when he was bought from Joe Fargis of the United States for Norwegian Geir Gulliksen to ride. He then passed through the hands of Britain's William Funnell for a considerably smaller sum, before being sold to Doyle. The horse is now owned by Ayumi Kotini, a Japanese woman living in Dublin, with Doyle retaining the ride.

Not to be outdone Darragh's mount, the mare Leap of Faith, is equally well-travelled. Originally owned by Doyle, she was bought by Darragh as a four-year-old, then sold to Kuwait before being sent back to Darragh in Ireland at the start of the Gulf War.

Leap of Faith is now owned by Toni Leviste of the Philippines, who intends to compete in the Sydney Olympics on another horse, Ghandi, before she retires from show jumping to become a politician. It is thought that the fame she will gain as an Olympic competitor will help Leviste's political aspirations.

Heavy rain, which is such a familiar feature of the Windsor show, drenched the Castle Arena yesterday and a later jumping contest was moved to another ring in order to preserve the ground. With a good forecast, however, it is hoped that the squelchy surface will dry out quickly in time for this afternoon's Samsung Gentleman's Jumping Championship.

Royal Windsor Horse Show (Berks)

Anglo-Irish Challenge (Two Phase Pair Stakes): 1 Cor D'Almez (E Doyle) & Leap of Faith (P Darragh, Irl) clear, 33.33sec; 2 Cruiseline (H Marshall) & Garronturton Lady (D Lennon, Irl) clear, 34.10; 3 Jalisco (N Skelton) & Handel (M Whitaker, GB ) clear, 34.69. Leading standings: 1 Ireland 3pts; 2 GB 1.5pts. Hunter Championship: Imperial Imp (D Tatlow). Reserve: Statesman III (G Landau). Asprey International Driving Grand Prix (Horse teams after dressage): 1 Y Chardon (Neth) 36.8 penalties; 2 G Bowman (GB) 42.1; 3 F Brasseur (Bel) 42.4.