Kuerten boosts World Cup prospects

JESSICA KUERTEN greatly boosted her chances of making the World Cup final yesterday when fending off a strong effort from the home contingent to win the qualifier at Mechelen, Belgium.

The 41-year-old rider’s performance saw her rocket from 43rd place to 11th on the Western European League, six places behind compatriot Billy Twomey, and she was delighted.

“It was a very special win, and I feel quite emotional,” Kuerten said. “We really wanted to win, we were unbelievably motivated and we had to go very fast to beat Gregory Wathalet. Winning this and the Queen’s Cup on Tuesday has made it a fairytale week.”

Kuerten’s victory came with Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois, the German-based rider being one of only four riders to make the jump-off from a starting line-up of 38.

With the other three riders Belgian, the money was on the home side, but Kuerten was having none of it. Third to go, she knocked half a second off the target set by Gregory Wathelet on Sea Coast Cortes C.

There was still the agony, however, of watching former world champion Jos Lansink bid to wrest the keys of a Land Rover four-wheel drive from her grasp, along with €13,000 in prizemoney.

Kuerten must have thought Lansink and the eight-year-old grey gelding ‘Casper van Spieveld — who has only been in his yard for two weeks — were about to spoil her party as the pair approached the finish well up on time. However, the top plank of the final obstacle proved Lansink’s undoing, relegating him to third.

Kuerten has April’s final in Leipzig, Germany in her sights. “I really want to get there and my plan is to compete in Basel and Amsterdam, then I have a wild card for Zurich and the Irish spot for Bordeaux and Vigo,” she said.

Myrtille Paulois’s performance saw her step out of the shadow of the great Castle Forbes Libertina. The latter lined out in the minor classes at Mechelen and is expected back in top-flight action soon after a long injury-enforced break, but yesterday was all about her understudy. “She was second in the Grand Prix at La Coruna last week and this was only her second World Cup competition. I’m really proud of her. It’s the perfect end to the year and I’m hoping that 2011 continues in the same vein.”

- SHOWJUMPINGIRELAND (SJI) chairman Ronan Corrigan yesterday refused to specifically mention the Irish Show Jumping Centres Group (ISJCG) when commenting on possible conflicts of interest among members of regional SJI committees nominated to the SJI’s national executive.

ISJCG chairperson Anne Waistell was recently voted onto the Munster Region committee and nominated for the national executive.

However, Corrigan said his comments in the Irish Field about possible conflicts of interest did not target the ISJCG.

“If the decisions by members of any organisation have a bearing on the operation of another company, there may be a conflict of interest in some instances. A person that has the ability to influence decisions that could benefit them directly is, in company law, described as having a possible conflict of interest. I must stress this could apply to centre owners across the country. This is not about targeting the ISJCG, though, and this is not the first time a conflict of interest has arisen. For example, an international rider actively competing has never sat on a selection committee, because common sense has prevailed,” said Corrigan, whose tenure as chairman is coming to an end.

Apart from being one of the Munster Region nominees to the SJI national executive, Waistell is also a nominee to the SJI’s influential management and finance committee. Yesterday, she disputed any possible conflict of interest.

“There is no conflict of interest. We are all in the same business. Why would there be a conflict of interest? There is no point in summising what might be. What is good for the centres is also good for the sport. The centres and the sport go hand in hand. Any decision that I would make would be for the benefit of the sport, firstly. It is why I am involved in both the ISJCG and the SJI. If shows are working well, all benefit. Successful shows benefit the sport. What we want is that the sport is working well, because if that is the case, the industry will work well. The centres are not separate from the shows, we are all part of the sport. Also, there have been centre owners on the national executive heretofore,” she said.

Regional nominees must be passed by the national executive at the first meeting — which is likely to take place next month — before taking their place at board level.

“I am a nominee to the executive and the executive must rubber-stamp my place when it meets at the end of January. I hope this does not become an issue,” said Waistell, who for 37 years has run the Ballyrafter Equestrian Centre in Lismore and, previously, was chairperson and secretary of the Waterford/Tipperary Branch.

Waistell became the first chairperson this year of the ISJCG, which had its genesis in the dispute between the SJI and Millstreet’s Noel C Duggan. The Corkman highlighted an aberration in the SJI’s insurance, which means commercial show jumping centres require their own cover even when staging SJI shows.

Corrigan was the target of an anonymous letter circulated last February concerning the provision of consultancy services to SJI by Coolree House Stud, Robertstown, Naas, Co Kildare, a company with Corrigan as the registered owner. He is also a member of the SJI’s management and finance committee, but rejected yesterday that any conflict arose.

“As a member of the management and finance committee, I have excused myself from votes when there is a possible conflict of interest. I have also signalled to the committee that I would leave the meeting if a decision was to be taken. I have never been taken up on this offer.”

Waistell noted yesterday that the SJI did not display its current insurance policy on its website.

“We are looking into a group insurance for the ISJCG. Unfortunately, there is no new SJI policy on its website, even though it expired on October 31. Considering all the controversy about insurance, it is a bit strange, to the say the least, that the new policy is not on the website for public perusal. I am assuming there is insurance, but why is it not on the website.”

Corrigan explained: “We have a new insurance policy. The fact it is not on the website is an oversight. It will definitely be put up as soon as the holidays are over. However, there is no change to the policy.”

He also said the deferred Leinster AGM would probably take about January 10.

Meanwhile, former Munster Region PRO, Brian Hennessy, yesterday confirmed he had stripped the region’s website of all its material.

“I am no longer PRO. I was tasked with setting up the website and for those coming in, I wanted to ensure it was their responsibility,” he said.

- CARBERY Pony Club is to stage an Area 5 show jumping league at the West Cork Equine Centre in Kilbrittain. It begins on January 9, followed by shows on Jan 16 and Jan 23. The organisers promise great prizes, sponsored by O’Brien Saddlery. Shows will feature the usual classes, along with a nations cup-style team competition on each of the three weeks. Enquiries: 086/1681675.

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