Alexander Butler had a good weekend, as international competition got back into full swing for the first time since the raft of postponments due to the equine herpes virus (EHV-1) outbreak in Europe.

The Co Meath native claimed top honours in Sunday’s two-star Grand Prix at Bonheiden in Belgium on board the 14-year-old stallion Chilli B.

Ireland was strongly represented in the jump off, with Wexford’s Harry Allen finishing in sixth place with the 10-year-old stallion Guinness.

Butler was delighted to be back competing following the disruption caused by COVID-19 and the EHV-1 outbreak, saying: “It has been a very slow year, but now hopefully we can keep going. I have a nice string of horses that have the ability to compete at the big shows and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Kenny triupmhs

Meanwhile in the US, Darragh Kenny continued his excellent run of form when landing Sunday’s $35,000 National Grand Prix at ESP Spring II in Florida. Kenny filled two of the top three places, with the Heathman Farm, LLC-owned Idalville D’Esprit taking first place and Scarlett Du Sart Z, owned by Vlock Show Stables, LLC taking third place.

Speaking of Idalville D’Esprit after his win, Darragh said: “He’s an exceptionally talented horse.

“He had a great record with Eric [Lamaze] jumping some really big Grand Prix classes and was fantastic.

“I think the horse is incredible and I’ve just been building him up slowly, but his jump feels amazing. He feels like he can jump anything and do anything, so I’m really excited.”

National Grand Prix

Back on the home front, last weekend saw the opening round of the National Grand Prix at CoilÓg equestrian centre in Co Kildare.

Co Meath’s John Floody took victory on this occasion on board the Kathryn Magennis-owned Accidental Diamond, who was bred by John Kearny.

Floody and the nine-year-old Diamond Roller gelding jumped two clear rounds, stopping the clock in 42.47 seconds, just ahead of Tyrone’s Jenny Rankin who finished in runner-up position with Vanessa Mannix’s Carmela Z in 42.58 seconds.

Completing the top three was Waterford’s Sarah Connell on board Coolmeen Fair Exchange who were clear in 44.95.

A further 21 rounds of the National Grand Prix have been confirmed with a possibility of more venues being added.

The final will take place on 5 September at Tipperary Equestrian.

This year sees an increase in prize money to €4,000 per round, which is great news for Irish riders as international travel remains tricky with COVID-19 and Brexit difficulties.