Splaine seeking Florida flyer

Robert Splaine is hoping the team that placed second in last year’s US nations cup will get his new term as manager off to a good start today when they line out in Florida.

Splaine has again opted for Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam and Richie Moloney, each with different mounts, while Darragh Kerins will again ride Lisona. O’Connor will partner Splendor, while Sweetnam is on the Swedish warmblood Siri, and Moloney rides Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve, the horse that had just one time fault over four rounds in the wins at Dublin and Hickstead last year.

“We have good, solid riders, some with new horses,” said Splaine yesterday. “This level fits in well with our overall plan, which is preparation for the Furusiyya Nations Cup Series and, long term, our World Equestrian Games bid next year.

“It is the first time Siri and Splendor would have jumped at this level. It is a significant step up, but this is an opportunity to explore potential options such as these with the future in mind.”

The quartet placed second to Germany last year and the defending champions are well represented in today’s seven-nation contest that also includes Canada, the US, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia.

“The nations cup is always very competitive. It means a huge amount to the various teams, especially the Americans, it being on home turf. On paper, they would be among the obvious teams to win, along with Germany, Canada and ourselves, but at this level you cannot write off any country.”

Splaine sees the contest as the first step in building a foundation to qualifying a team for the 2016 Olympics.

“Obviously, our immediate focus is Friday’s nations cup, then I will discuss our plans with the riders for the summer, taking into consideration the owners’ requirements. We are rather unique in that we have riders spread both sides of the Atlantic.

“The Furusiyya Nations Cup Series is a new format and it is difficult to predict how it will flow. We have the riders, but we have some new horses getting exposure at the higher level. We have four attempts — La Baule, St Gallen, Aachen and Dublin — and it remains to be seen how these horses will perform, but I am as confident as I can be at this stage.”

He also said he was looking forward to Sweetnam and Denis Lynch bidding for Ireland’s first World Cup title in Gothenburg, Sweden, in April.

“I have been speaking to Denis; he requested the place at the ’s-Hertogenbosch qualifier, so he could try to gain eligibility for All Inclusive for the final. It is important we give these riders every support for what is a demanding championships. Denis already has Abbervail van het Dingeshof and Big Star eligible, but you can compete two horses in the finals and he wants to maximise his chances.”

Live coverage of today’s nations cup is available at www.feitv.org from midnight.

- American-based Galwayman Andrew Bourns says his mother, Deirdre, remains integral to his set-up, despite having broken her neck last September when she was struck by a horse in the warm-up arena at Cavan Equestrian Centre.

Bourns won the Hermès Derby in Florida last Sunday with his new horse Gatsby, and afterwards told how his mother closely follows the action.

“My mother is doing very well. She is still in the national Rehabilitation Centre and is still paralysed from the bottom of her rib cage down. Despite her condition, she is still my team captain, she can watch all of the big classes from Wellington live on the internet and we video chat after every class and almost every morning. She remains a very important part of my team.”

Bourns, who has been Stateside since 2007, led an Irish clean sweep in the derby, with just three-hundredths of a second separating him and his compatriots Darragh Kenny (Any Given Sunday) and Sweetnam (Little Emir).

Gatsby, a grey nine-year-old stallion, is by the warmblood Simba and was bred by Cormac McKay, Co Tyrone. He was purchased four months ago and brought over from Ireland only recently.

Ballinasloe man Bourns sold his top horse Roundthorn Madios to American Lauren Tisbo, who made her debut with the Condios gelding last November.

- Horse Sport Ireland is to launch a series for young eventing horses, similar to its successful show jumping studbook series.

Details are to be announced in the coming days, with the series thought to be for horses aged 4-6, and featuring around €20,000 in prizemoney.

lDenis Lynch is reported by Horses International online to have purchased the gelding Anyway II with Stal Tops.

The eight-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding was competed by Briton Robert Whitaker, scoring some good results, including a win in the final for seven-year-olds in the British Young Horse Showjumping Championships and, in January, placing fifth in the Rolex FEI World Cup for horses aged seven and eight in Lipsia, Germany.

Lynch is competing this weekend in the $1m Hong Kong Masters, with Sunday’s Longines Grand Prix, boasting $700,000 in prizemoney.


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