Watson downbeat after ‘awful’ dressage test

Twenty minutes after his dressage test in Saumur yesterday, Sam Watson was candid in his summing up: “It was awful.”

The Carlow rider had scored 58 on Horseware Bushman and, with manager Ginny Elliot assessing contenders for her Olympic squad, Watson was downbeat: “I am not happy. It was awful. We did a 37 in Ballindenisk in the spring and he led that competition and that is the standard we should be at. I took a gamble on a different bit he goes nicely in at home and it didn’t work for us in the arena,” said the Worcestershire-based rider, who was ruing the cancellation of Badminton, where he placed 13th two years ago.

“It is my first time in Saumur and it is only in the last two weeks since Badminton was cancelled that I decided to change the bit. It was a bad decision, done in the interest of making things better, but it backfired. You have to take these risks, though, if you want to get better.”

Watson placed 12th of the 20 riders to compete yesterday, but he is certain to move well down the leaderboard with 32 competitors undertaking their dresssage today, including Jayne Doherty (The Only One) and Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise).

Accordingly, he is banking on a good cross-country tomorrow.

“I am still hoping to make the team for the Olympics. Ginny and her advisors know there is previous form and that this is a huge blip, but, while very disappointing, I hope they see past that. I won a three-star in Hopetoun in Scotland last year so, hopefully, that will count for something,” said the 26-year-old, who was part of the team that placed fifth in last year's European Championships.

“The cross-country is a pretty strong track, very French with its angles and skinny fences and four water jumps. Hopefully, we can make enough of a statement to get me selected for the Olympics... I know I have no choice but to do well in the cross-country.

* Show jumper Denis Lynch is aiming to overcome his injuries and jump in tomorrow’s Global Champions Tour in Hamburg, Germany.

The Tipp rider was on his lap of honour after winning the La Baule Derby last weekend when, in his own words... “my horse shied and I flew straight into a metal wheelbarrow.

“I broke two ribs and chipped a bone in my elbow. I have five stitches in my head, 10 in my elbow, bruises on my hips.

“It’s not my first time to break a bone, but I’m gonna try to ride this weekend. When I jump I will be strapped up. I’m being well looked after. I’m second in the GCT rankings and I’d like to keep going. It is how I make a living; I won’t get paid if I don’t ride. There is also a lot at stake in terms of selection for the Olympics.

“If I’m struggling tomorrow [Friday], I may decide not to jump on Saturday and go home. I’ll take it step by step.”

Lynch also said consideration should be given to changing the practice that riders remove their hats at prize-giving ceremonies.

“Luckily, I’m pretty fit, but if this happened to a young kid, who knows what could have happened.

“I was very lucky I didn’t crack my skull, as I had taken my hat off.

“I would ask: Is it necessary to remove your riding hat at prize-giving? Elsewhere, we are not allowed take our hats off.”

Also bidding for a slice of the €285,000 on offer in tomorrow’s GCT is Cork’s Billy Twomey and Mark McAuley

lNiall Talbot will be hoping for a chance to shine in next Friday’s Italian Nations Cup after being left on the sidelines in last weekend’s joint fifth place in France.

Talbot was yesterday again named by manager Robert Splaine with Nicos De La Cense in the squad for Rome, along with: Dermott Lennon (Loughview Lou-Lou), Cian O’Connor (Blue Loyd 12), Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto Darco) and Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade).

lMullingar International Horse Festival is to be one of four shows participating in a Great Britain and Ireland Tour (GBI Tour).

The four shows involved in the initiative will offer total prize money of €400,000, with €250,000 alone at Mullingar (June 1-4) and Millstreet (August 7-12).

The tour also features the Royal Highland Show in Scotland (June 21-24) and the British Masters at Southview, England (June 29-July 1) and boasts a leading rider prize of €5,000.

Mullingar festival director Robert Fagan said: “These are four great shows. The Royal Highland alone attracts 180,000 visitors over the four days. I must personally thank Ann Logan of the Royal Highland, Charles Britton of the British Masters and Thomas Duggan from Millstreet for coming on board this year.”

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