Hoping to impress Splaine are Limerick’s Paul O’Shea (Realman), Offaly’s Darragh Kenny (Gael Force), Cork rider Shane Sweetnam (Rolette) and Idaho-based New Yorker Jennifer Crooks (SF Uryadi), whose mother is from Roscommon.
Ireland are drawn seventh in the $75,000, eight-country contest and Splaine, feels the quartet could win, though he added the usual caveats.
“It is the first nations cup of the season, so, it’s sightly hard to gauge how things will go.
“However, Wellington has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past. It is difficult to predict the outcome, because all the best riders in the US are here, as are the Canadians, who use this a testing ground for team selection. The English also have a good squad. Naturally, we will be hoping for a good result and I wouldn’t rule it out,” said Splaine.
“My main objective is to identify a combination or two that will help us with our Meydan campaign and, in previous years, the likes of Shane and Darragh have come to Europe to help us with our mission.
“All the riders and horses have been getting good results, which justified their selection,” said Splaine.
These “good results” continued yesterday, as O’Shea won the Welcome Stakes with Harry Gill’s Daydream St Ghyvan Z. Tonight will be his 10th appearance in a nations cup, something he describes as “special”.
“Nations cups are a big deal for us, and it’s what we all aim for. It’s a big honour and I think we have a very good team and it should be good,” said O’Shea, speaking after his second win at the $6 million Winter Festival, which continues until April 3.
Sweetnam, too, has tasted victory with Little Emir and finished 12th recently in the World Cup class at Wellington with Rolette, two places behind O’Shea and Realman, after both four-faulted in the first round.
Kenny and Gael Force blew the opposition away to win the $31,000 Challenge Cup at the end of January, while Jennifer Crooks was on the nations cup winning team in 2005.
It augurs well...
As does the news that Splaine and Horse Sport Ireland representatives met Denis Lynch last Monday.
In January, Lynch revealed he would not be making himself available for selection this year, noting that a poor relationship with Splaine was behind his decision. He even went so far as to disclose he had enquired about competing for Germany, where he has lived for the past 16 years.
In a statement on Tuesday, HSI said “progress was made on all the issues raised and it is hoped that matters will be fully resolved shortly”.
Splaine declined to comment.
The talks were a filip for the sport in a year when the focus will be on Olympic qualification in August’s European Championships. It is also a boost when you consider ShowjumpingIreland’s decision to re-allocate a sizeable amount of the money it previously spent on international affairs.
Coincidentally, the reputed amount of the SJI cutback was almost matched by Lynch, who on Tuesday presented €100,000 to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) to help it tackle Ireland’s equine welfare “crisis”. Lynch raised the money as part of a campaign he conducted across Europe and he promised to continue his efforts at the lucrative Global Champions Tour.
* NEITHER Michael Ryan, nor his wife Patricia, are on the high-performance list of eventing riders this year, but the former says he is confident this will change.
Michael took his first step in making good on his aim last weekend when fifth with the Waterford-bred Annestown Emperor in the two-star class in Vale Sabroso, Portugal.
“Annestown Emperor was placed in a number of two-star and three-star events last year and I was happy with placing fifth, considering it’s his first time out this year. He is the horse I will be hoping will get me a place on the European Championships team,” said the Bandon-based Limerickman.
Lady Chatterbox also looks to have a bright future, carrying Patricia to victory in the one-star class.
“She’s seven and we bought her as a five-year-old. Basically, she has won everything at one-star level in Ireland. This is her first international event. We were hoping she would be well placed, so, it’s a bonus to win and, while it wasn’t too much of a surprise she came first, it was nice, nonetheless,” said Michael.
For good measure, Patricia also placed fourth on Ballylynch Taldis Porter and seventh on Ballylynch Wizard, while Michael was fifth on Ballylynch Sky High, with Katie O’Sullivan (Shannondale Que) sixth.