Umbrella body group eye Christmas completion date

THE chairman of the implementation group charged with setting up an umbrella body for equestrianism hopes to complete the group’s task by Christmas.

Michael Dowling outlined his aspirations yesterday, as the group prepared for its first meeting today.

Mr Dowling said the meeting’s agenda will include “getting agreement on the direction to be taken by the group, a programme of works and a timescale on further meetings”.

The former secretary of the Department of Agriculture hopes the group’s work will be completed “by, ideally, Christmas, or, early next year.”

Aside from Dowling, the gathering today will comprise three members from the Equestrian Federation of Ireland (Lewis Lowry, Avril Doyle and Charles Hanley), three from the Irish Horse Board, Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, along with one representative from each of the Department of Sport and Department of Agriculture.

Efforts to set up the umbrella body have been stalled for years, with the EFI initially baulking at Dowling’s appointment.

Meanwhile, Goffs - where the SJAI has its headquarters - has been granted planning for an extensive equestrian development. It is possible that the implementation group will consider that the umbrella body site its offices within the centre. Mr Dowling said: “It would make sense that the umbrella body be based outside Dublin and in a place that is equestrian-related.”

* SUSAN SHORTT was last night best of the Irish after the opening day of dressage in the European Eventing Championships in Blenheim, England.

The Kildare woman, aboard Just Beauty Queen, was marked down at 55 penalties to place equal 17th.

Sarah Wardell (Test Flight) was four places further behind on 59.6, followed in 29th place by Michael Ryan (Old Road) with a score of 67.4 penalties.

Germany’s Bettina Hoy was in pole position on the Irish-bred Ringwood Cockatoo with 31.3 penalties.

Ireland’s Jonty Evans (Cregwarrior), Niall Griffin (Lorgaine) and Mark Kyle (Drunken Disorderly) carry Irish hopes today in the second dressage group.

* DERMOTT LENNON placed third in the grand prix at the Hague last Sunday, boosting Irish aspirations for the forthcoming Samsung Super League final. The Dutch-based rider was eighth to go in a 12-horse jump-off. Conscious there had been no double clears and with one eye on Sunday week’s Barcelona final, he opted not to push the 10-year-old stallion Condios, but achieved his aim of a clear. However, his lead was trumped by Belgian’s Ludo Philippaerts, who also proved too fast for second-placed Dutchman Gert-Jan Bruggink.

Joining Lennon on the Irish team battling relegation on Sunday week are Cian O’Connor, Billy Twomey, Capt Shane Carey and Shane Breen. Harry Marshall has been installed as a reserve rider after he relented last week in his stance not to compete for Ireland. Also in as a reserve is Marie Burke. Either will be called upon in the unfortunate case a team horse is injured.

The Irish made their mark in the five-star show at Gijon, Spain, last weekend with Trevor Coyle (Over Time GMS) producing one of only two double clears as he and his team-mates Conor Swail (Poncho), Ryan Crumley (Baltimore) and Cameron Hanley (Hippica Kerman) placed equal third in the nations cup. Swail also notched up a hat-trick of thirds, including in the grand prix with his own eight-year-old gelding Poncho. Harry Marshall placed sixth in the competition with Ado Annie and also rode Splendido to second in the speed final ahead of Swail on Nepomuk.

Edward Doyle, aboard Effective, took the top honours in the grand prix at the two-star show in Villamoura, Portugal, with Peter Charles fourth on Johnny Jumper.

* JESSICA KÜRTEN has slipped two places in the latest FEI world rankings to 13th. The German-based rider plans to compete in a number of World Cup qualifiers in the coming months and if she broke into the top 10 she would have gained an automatic invitation.

Now, she must rely on the goodwill of the selectors, with whom she is at loggerheads, questioning the selection process in a well-publicised dispute.

Kürten hopes to compete in qualifiers at Verona, Stuttgart and Mechelen. Her main target, however, is the German fixture, the Antrim-born rider considering it home territory.

Kürten made a huge effort to qualify for this year’s World Cup final in Las Vegas and went on to finish 14th, having placed second in the last contest.

She returns to the city’s Thomas & Mack Centre next month, when she takes on 24 of the world’s best show jumpers in the $1m Las Vegas Invitational.

* HEIKE HOLSTEIN won her 10th national title at Marlton Stud, County Wicklow last Sunday.

Riding the 13-year-old Hannovarian gelding Welt Adel, she produced a flowing test in the National Dressage Championships to record a personal best score at grand prix level of 69.69% to decisively win the Horwarth Bastow Charlton Grand Prix Championship. Heike won her first national title in 1990.

Second place went to Anne Marie Dunphy scoring 59.58% with Egano S. Laragh Hamilton finished on 58.86% with Claggan Roxy Music to place a praiseworthy third in her first outing at this level, having graduated from the young rider ranks just last year.

* THE Millstreet Indoor Horse Show will not go ahead this year, as the Duggan family are concentrating their efforts on their summer show, according to Noel C Duggan.

“We are putting all our energy into supporting the August show. It is critical to the sport and the industry that this is where our energy goes. It is where we can give our sponsors maximum exposure,” he said.

* ROBERT SPLAINE is making his debut as chef d’equipe in nations cup at Podebrady, the Czech Republic, today. Hoping to make his managerial beginnings a good one are the team of Neal Fearon, Ronan McLaughlin, Brian Duff and Capt David O’Brien.

Splaine travels to Zagreb later this month, where he takes charge of Cameron Hanley, Neal Fearon, Sarah Kate Quinlivan and Ryan Crumley.

* THE 1.20m and 1.10m Young Riders League finals - sponsored by Rockcliffe Stud and Fuji, respectively - along with the Munster Joinery 1.10m final form the feature classes at the SJAI Cork/Kerry Branch Gymkhana on Sunday. The venue is O’Brien’s Lawn, Inniscarra and the gymkhana begins at 10am. Enquiries: 087/4125633.

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