Nations Series still on despite funding cut

IRELAND will contest this year’s Meydan Nations Cup Series, despite a 60% cut in funding by its affiliate, ShowjumpingIreland, coupled with a reduction in the Irish Sports Council contribution to high performance.

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) chief executive Damian McDonald yesterday said a decision had been made to commit to the elite series, though he would not outline in what other areas cuts would, or could, be made.

“We will be participating in the Meydan Series this year. We have hard decisions to make, but we have to keep our focus on the main goal, ie, qualifying for the Olympic Games in show jumping and eventing. While some people may be pessimistic about our chances of qualifying through the European Championships in Madrid and Luhmühlen, show jumping manager Robert Splaine, eventing manager Ginny Elliot and the riders are determined, despite the budgetary cuts, to make it happen,” said McDonald.

“We looked closely at the cost of competing in the Meydan Series, but the view of the show jumping high performance committee is that the series has an important part to play in preparing for the European Championships.”

The SJI executive last week ratified the proposal by the association’s management and finance committee to allocate €100,000 to HSI for international participation this year. In 2010, SJI provided €250,000, which was the final tranche of a three-year arrangement with HSI.

On Tuesday, the HSI show jumping high performance committee — which includes SJI executive members Taylor Vard and James Tarrant — discussed the issue, but earlier yesterday, SJI chairman Christy Murphy reiterated that this year’s allocation was not open for negotiation.

“That figure is set in stone and that’s not just coming from me, it’s coming from the whole SJI executive. It was a unanimous decision last week. Our budgets are set and our money is promised to the different disciplines through the sport. We have to look after our own members and also we have reduced our fees pretty much across the board. Basically, our income does not merit any more money than €100,000 for international affairs.

“It is worth noting that, in three years, we have given €890,000 to international affairs and it has nearly broken the association.

“Also, I’m dismayed that there has been no official correspondence from HSI. They have been informed twice by us about our decision,” he said.

- SHANE SWEETNAM adopted an upbeat tone tinged with realism ahead of tomorrow’s $500,000 grand prix at in Wellington, Florida.

The US-based Kanturk native knows he will have to be at his best in such exalted company, but remains sanguine about his prospects, noting that his mount Amaretto d’Arco is nicely tuned for the task.

“The stallion has been jumping well. He was placed seventh in a grand prix three weeks ago and last week was fifth in another ranking class. Sure, it’s a top-class field, the standard will be high, but he was placed eighth in the competition two years ago and he has done plenty of competitions of that stature, so it should not be a problem.

“On the other hand, it will be his first major grand prix of 2011, so, if I got a top-five placing I would be very happy,” said the Sweetnam, who lines out alongside Darragh Kenny the US-based Offaly rider, who has been impressing with Gael Force,

Sweetnam is also excited about a stallion he acquired last summer.

Diktator is eight now and he has been placed a lot. For sure, I would rate him. He’s been clear in nearly every class and was clear in a 1.50m class two weeks ago, his first at that height. He’s probably a year away from a Meydan competition, but I plan to bring him to Europe this year along with the other two horses. I’m meant to be doing La Baule, Rome and St Gallen.”

- GERARD CLARKE’S win at Kernan’s Equestrian Centre last Sunday has elevated him to the top of the HSI Chippison Spring Tour at the half-way stage. The young rider gained 10 points for a tour total of 28, putting him four ahead of the equally youthful Daniel Coyle.

A double of wins for Capt Michael Kelly sees him in third place on 23 points, with seven legs remaining, two of which take place this weekend, in Cavan and at Maryville, Co Cork.

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