There were some positive moves for Irish riders in the latest Longines rankings issued by the world governing body, the FEI, yesterday.
The figures are officially for the year ending February 28 but include some results up to March 3 when the latest weekend of international action concluded.
The Irish moves reflect good performances at the ongoing Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, as well as a number of decent showings on the opposite side of the Atlantic in the past month or so.
Ireland’s three highest-ranked riders showed little change in position, with Bertram Allen (24th), Cian O’Connor (25th), and Denis Lynch (26th) hardly varying. Shane Sweetnam edges closer to joining them inside the top 30, moving from 37th to 34th, while Daniel Coyle climbs five places to 41st. Shane Breen completes the sextet of Irish riders inside the top 50, though dropping three slots to 48th, while Darragh Kenny (52nd), Conor Swail (61st), Mark McAuley (82nd), and Richie Moloney (83rd) give the Irish a total of ten in the world’s top 100.
Knocking on that door comes Paul O’Shea, who climbs 41 places to 103rd, and Cameron Hanley also rockets towards the top 100, jumping 44 notches to 106th.
American Kent Farrington continues to hold the number one position despite being out of action after a fall in Florida last month, with Dutch rider Harrie Smolders still in second ahead of USA’s McLain Ward.
Last Saturday night’s nations cup at Wellington rounded off the three Ireland contested in the past month. Team affairs are now on hold until the European league qualifiers start at the end of April. A second place at the UAE nations cup last month provided a decent start to the season, with David Simpson’s double-clear on Keoki being notable. Of the two Florida contests, last month’s at Ocala was a disappointment, Ireland’s share of third needing to be qualified by the fact this one was only a six-team game.
Much better was last Saturday’s effort in Wellington. It took an inspired performance by Great Britain to prevent Ireland from winning this event for the third year running.
As development manager Michael Blake said afterwards, a team jumping five clear rounds, as Ireland did, could expect to win. As it turned out, the British went one better with six, and they needed every one as Ireland really put the pressure on in the second round.
Britain led at halfway on zero faults, five ahead of Ireland, but hopes were raised at the start of the second round when Amanda Derbyshire downed a plank and faulted at the water when only three obstacles away from scoring a double-clear with Luibanta BH.
Ireland rattled off three clears, but the window was emphatically shut as not another fault was given away by the British, Ben Maher killed off Irish hopes with his second clear on Tic Tac.
The highlights for Ireland were Shane Sweetnam’s nations cup newcomer Indra van de Oude Heihoef taking to this stage in fine style, coming home without a hitch in both rounds, and Paul O’Shea, as he had done a year ago, also scoring a double-clear with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu.
The Irish were again prominent in Sunday’s four-star Grand Prix in which Richie Moloney took second with Carrabis Z after an 11-way jump-off. The Kilkenny rider was last to go and overtook everyone except USA’s Beezie Madden (Breitling LS). The other Irish rider in the decider, Denis Lynch, had gone for broke on RMF Echo and posted one of the fastest rounds, but downed a pole when two from home to place fifth.
In Europe, Billy Twomey took Sunday’s four-star Grand Prix on the Sunshine Tour at Vejer de la Frontera in Spain, getting Kimba Flamenco home 0.7 seconds faster than Germany’s Michael Viehweg on Lord of Pezi.
“It’s his first four-star grand prix so I’m really happy with how he’s performed,” said Twomey.
This weekend the Sunshine Tour continues at four-star level, while week nine at Wellington moves up to five star. Bertram Allen heads for the Dutch Masters meeting at ’s-Hertogenbosch.
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