Splaine cautious about Irish prospects

Despite the successes achieved last year, Ireland show jumping manager Robert Splaine was yesterday in no mood for talking up his squad’s chances in this year’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Series.

Speaking ahead of today’s opening leg of Division 1 of the series at La Baule, France, Splaine referred to the perennial Irish problem of horsepower.

“We had successful year last year, including victory in Dublin, which helped us to finish third in the series, plus we won an Olympic medal.

“However, horses that prove themselves capable at the highest level become hugely sought after and much our stock has been sold, which is an aspect of success that in the real world you just have to accept. For example, Blue Loyd and Lisona were sold, while we lost Pacino through illness. This is a significant depletion of our pool of horses.”

As to whether Denis Lynch would form part of his plans for the season, Splaine would only say: “This is largely a building year and we will need all our combinations available at some stage if we are to succeed in our aim to qualify for the Furusiyya final. This is particularly so, as like all nations, with the new formula, we are limited to four point-gaining opportunities.

“Our overall mission is to qualify for the Olympics and WEG next year presents the first opportunity and that is our medium aim.”

Continuing the caution-first theme, Splaine said it would be “impossible to predict” how his charges would fare in today’s contest.

“We have two new combinations at this level, Shane Breen with Balloon and Shane Carey with Ballymore Eustace. But they are highly motivated professional bunch of riders and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Ireland are drawn third of the eight teams in today’s contest and Splaine has also selected Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto d’Arco) and Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade), with Capt Michael Kelly (Annestown) on the sidelines.

The Furusiyya Series came about as a result of a €16m four-year sponsorship package from the Saudi Equestrian Fund, with the world divided into six regions for the purpose of qualifying a team for a final.

To win a place in September’s final in Barcelona, Spain, Ireland must take one of the top six places in Division 1, and have selected France, Switzerland, Germany and Dublin as their four points-gaining shows.

Our rivals in Division 1 are Germany, France, Britain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Ukraine, and Spain.

Also vying for points today are France — aiming for their third win on home soil in succession — Britain and Switzerland.

Points are allocated on the following basis — 1st: 100, 2nd: 90, 3rd: 82, 4: 75, points 5: 70, 6th: 66, 7th: 65, 8th: 64, 9th: 60, 10th: 59 points.

* A number of qualifiers provide the highlights of a broad show jumping programme at Sunday’s Bandon Agriculture Show in West Cork. Highlight will be the 1.10m horse class, which incorporates a qualifier for the Greyhound Night Final at Banteer. There are also 1.10m Cork/Kerry qualifiers for horses and ponies.

Entertainment will include a cossack display and a racehorse-to-riding-horse class, along with Carbery Macra Farm Skills display, a pet farm, pony club games and a dog show. See: www.bandonshow.com.

* Cian O’Connor and his wife Ruth Maybin are expecting their first baby in September.

“We are absolutely thrilled... everyone we speak to says having kids changes your life for the better,” said Cian, a veteran of 91 Irish nations cup teams.

* An introduction to Ireland’s new senior eventing manager Nick Turner takes place at Killossery Lodge Stud, Co Dublin, on Monday, May 27.

It has been organised by the Irish Eventing Supporters Group and will see the Briton working with a number of top Irish riders, including Sarah Ennis. Horse Sport Ireland describe it as a “wonderful opportunity to see Nick working with some of the squad riders and to hear his plans for the future”.

It begins at 6.15pm and finishes at 8pm. For further details, contact Julia Watson 0872661772.


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