Splaine playing down chances as Ireland seek win no.5

Ireland’s show jumping team manager Robert Splaine is not expecting an easy ride today when his charges line out in the Swedish Nations Cup in Falsterbo.

Victory number five of the season is the aim, but manager Splaine is anything if not perspicacious, opting for a measured approach when gauging Ireland’s chances.

“It will be a tough ask. Sweden are fielding a Super League team, while the Danes and Germans are also strong,” said the Corkman yesterday.

Splaine was hoping Captain Shane Carey had set the tone for the Irish, the Army rider winning a derby speed class in devastating fashion yesterday with the chestnut gelding Cashla Bay.

“It is indicative of the current form of Ireland’s riders, who are winning a hell a lot of late,” he said.

Splaine’s team is drawn fifth of seven teams in today’s competition, with Carey the anchorman on River Foyle. Denis Lynch (Upsilon D’Ocquier) kicks off, followed by Cian O’Connor (Complete) and Ryan Crumley (Baltimore).

Ireland have set the pace this season, fulfilling Splaine’s hopes of a good early start and currently heading the FEI Nations Cup Series on 67 points. However the lead was narrowed to 16 points by Denmark last weekend with victory in Tallinn, Estonia. Crucially, Denmark only count five scores, while Ireland count seven — the full complement — and will be discarding scores from herein.

Only the series winner is promoted and victory today would further simplify matters for Splaine, who must juggle his squad to satisfy his promotion aspirations and also ensure a good results in next month’s European Championships. The latter are Ireland’s last chance to qualify for the Olympics and the team must finish in the top three of countries not already qualified to book their ticket to Hong Kong, the venue for the Olympics equestrian activities.

Meanwhile, Splaine confirmed he met Jessica Kürten, her husband Eckardt and Lady Georgina Forbes at Aachen, Germany, last weekend to discuss the Antrim woman’s participation in the Championships, which take place in Mannheim, Germany on August (August 14-19).

“We discussed our plans for the Europeans and we decided which horse she will ride,” said Splaine. As to the identity of the horse, he said: “That will be disclosed when I announce the team.”

Splaine has submitted his long-list for the championships, which take place the week after the Dublin Horse Show. Yesterday, Splaine re-iterated that the German fixture would be his priority when it came to selecting teams.

* IRELAND’S pony riders are making their mark at the European Championships. Yesterday, Cork 14-year-old Orla Kelly rode Western Wonder to victory in a Big Tour two-phase class. On Wednesday, Offaly 15-year-old Fiona Claffey opened the Irish account, finishing with a second in hand on My Little Holly in a speed class at the event in Freudenberg, Germany.

Today sees the team medal decider and the Irish quartet is: Jessica Burke (Silogue Darkie), Shane Connell (Murphy’s Flight), Richard Howley (Our Foreman) and Emily Turkington (Future Interest). Paddy McDonagh (Bertha’s Clover) is the fifth squad member.

Ireland’s eventing team of Leanne Butler (Brookhaven Boy), Lauren Devine (Jingle O So Good), Vanessa Meade (Trew Colours) and David Hannigan (Prince Zola) were lying in seventh place of eight teams yesterday after the dressage phase. In the contest for individual honours, Hannigan shares 18th place with two others, while squad member Niamh Thompson (Lisnamann Full Force) is in 23rd. Butler is 28th, Meade is 39th and Devine is 47th of the 48 competitors.

The dressage championship sees one rider wearing the green jacket: Robert McMullin.

Meanwhile, one pony failed the measuring test on Wednesday. It was said to be a member of the Italian squad. Under new FEI rules every pony must be measured prior to competition. A tolerance of two centimetres was applied, so 148cms ponies without shoes can measure 150cms and with shoes 151cms.

* DRESSAGE rider Anna Merveldt scored 65.64% with the 11-year-old Coriolan gelding Coryolano to place tenth in the Grand Prix Special at Fritzens Schindlhof, Austria, last Sunday. It was the pairing’s first outing at four-star level. Fifteen qualified from Friday’s grand prix, with 14 lining out for Sunday’s feature, which was won by British rider Emma Hindle and Lancet on a score of 71.20%.

Judy Reynolds and Burgfraulein scored 61.58% to be sixth in Sunday’s consolation Grand Prix class this morning.

In England, Comber-based trainer Carolyn Mellor scored a double with Kerry Blain’s eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding Russian Dream when winning both Advanced Medium classes at Summerhouse Dressage, Gloucestershire last Friday.

* THERE may be a month to go to Millstreet Horse Show, but work is gathering pace in preparation for the annual equine extravaganza.

Twelve classes have been added to what was already a packed schedule and last year’s more than 7,500 entries is expected to be exceeded, with 11 arenas catering for influx.

Prize money is more than €125,000 , says show director Thomas Duggan, who added: “Spectators, owners and riders make the annual pilgrimage each year to Millstreet because we provide classes to suit all ages and grades of horse and, of course, to promote the young horse sector.”

Accordingly, renowned competitions such as the Boomerang, the Lee Strand Dairy Young Irelander Loose Jumping for three-year-old horses and the four-year-old National Discovery will be augmented by a new concept: the Young Event Horse Futurity. This class is geared towards five and six-year-old horses. It will be held on the Thursday of the show and, aside from show jumping and dressage, riders will undertake a cross-country test, for which a course is under construction on the grounds of Drishane Castle. The show highlight will be the final leg of the Atec Premier League. A qualifying round will be held on Friday with the top 30 horses going through to Sunday’s feature, which will have a purse of €21,000.

The show takes place on August 14-19 and entries close today, but they will be taken online at: www.millstreethorseshow.ie

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