Ireland face hot competition in Rome

The temperature in Rome was high yesterday, matched by the spirit in the Irish camp, if Billy Twomey is any sort of barometer.

The Corkman had just taken Tinka’s Serenade for a spin in the opening jump-off class, retiring in the first round to conserve the chestnut mare and, commented: “The heat is killing. It’s f**kin hot, and you can quote me,” he joked.

Flippancy aside, the Nottinghamshire-based Corkman said Serenade was on song ahead of tomorrow’s second leg of the FEI Nations Cup and, with Ireland one of three countries to share fifth place in the series opener at La Baule, he predicted today’s contest would be another stiff test.

“It will be difficult, especially because there were eight double clears in La Baule, with a lot of time faults, which was exceptional. “The Germans and the Dutch have very strong teams and I feel it will be tougher than La Baule.

“It is all about tight margins and you need a bit of luck, but there is plenty of experience in the squad and, hopefully, we can have a good day.”

Ireland manager Robert Splaine opted for Twomey as the anchorman, with Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto D’Arco) the pathfinder, followed by Niall Talbot (Nicos de la Cense) and Cian O’Connor (Blue Loyd) to carry Irish hopes today.

“I was pleased with the performance in La Baule, but disappointed with the placing. Everybody jumped well and we must bear in mind it is an Olympic year and all combinations are vying for Olympic spots. Competition is extremely high at these events,” said Splaine.

“Every course is different, and the same performance as La Baule could put us higher, so it is impossible to make predictions and there is no point looking at the other teams. As long as my lads deliver a good performance, that’s all that matters.”

Ireland were last night drawn fifth of the nine teams, with league leaders Belgium first into the arena.

lSaudi Arabian show jumpers Khaled Abdulaziz Al Eid and Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly are to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after eight-month suspensions imposed this week ended the country’s Olympic hopes.

Horses ridden by the pair had tested positive for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone — a metabolite of phenylbutazone. Both are “controlled medications”, meaning their use is permitted outside of competition.

Al Eid’s mount Vanhoeve tested positive at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia (Nov-30 to Dec 3), while Al Sharbatly’s Lobster 43 was tested at the World Cup show at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates in February.

Al Eid’s suspension has been backdated to Feb 24, while Al Sharbatly’s commences on Feb 10, as both riders had voluntarily suspended themselves that month.

The FEI’s Tribunal ruling announced on Wednesday is a warning shot ahead of London 2012.

However, while it acknowledged the importance of the Olympic Games, which had been stressed by Al Eid during his hearing, “the tribunal stated that considering the upcoming Games, while determining the length of suspension, would not provide a level playing field in a sports calendar that offers major events almost every year, and that rules have to be applied consistently throughout the four-year Olympic cycle”.

* TEAGASC is organising an equine tour to Lanaken, Belgium, for the World Breeding Federation Young Horse Show Jumping Championships in September.

The tour will depart from Dublin on Sept 27, returning on Sept 30. The cost is €499, covering accommodation, coach transfers, breakfast and evening meals, entrance to the championships and a visit to a stud farm.

An initial deposit of €250, payable to Group Travel International, must be sent before June 19.


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