Splaine unlikely to be ratified until January

THE formal ratification of Robert Splaine as chef d’equipe to the senior show jumping team may not take place until January, as the Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI) has not scheduled an executive meeting until the New Year.

Considered urgent at one stage, it is likely that the EFI would have to call a meeting to specifically ratify the Cork man as the new chef d’equipe if it wanted to do it in 2005.

EFI secretary general Dan Butler yesterday said: “At present, there is no meeting pencilled in for December. It would not be extraordinary, but would be unusual to have an executive meeting in the weeks preceding Christmas.

“The only meeting next month is to be held by the finance committee, who will be working on preparing our submission to the Irish Sports Council for our core grant.”

As of yesterday, it was not possible to say if an EFI executive meeting would be called to confirm Splaine as the new chef d’equipe, as the EFI president Charles Powell is on holiday.

However, it could be supposed that Splaine could get down to work on an informal basis, preparing a battle plan for the 2006 season, with his ratification by the EFI considered a formality.

The chairman of the SJAI’s International Affairs Committee Taylor Vard said work was already underway in this regard. “We have talked about plans and Robert has come with some good ideas and we have also discussed funding for his travel to shows. Work is progressing, but I admit that the paperwork is slow,” said Vard ahead of a meeting of the SJAI’s International Affairs Committee yesterday afternoon.

Vard made his comments with Splaine’s contract still not put to bed. While the SJAI and the EFI are anxious to play down any hint of trouble regarding the contract, the longer it remains unfinished business, the greater the belief among the public that there is a fly in the ointment.

It is still fresh in the memory of show jumping followers that Eddie Macken’s elevation to the post of chef d’equipe earlier this year fell apart at the contract stage.

In a ballot of riders earlier this month to see who should be chef d’equipe for the 2006 season, Splaine came out tops, with John Ledingham the second choice. Macken was put forward by one rider, according to an SJAI source.

Meanwhile, the EFI executive last week gave the thumbs up to SJAI proposals for a structure on team selection and team management.

The system to be adopted in 2006, will see the chef d’equipe select the team for each Samsung Super League Nations Cup. This will be put to the International Affairs Committee. The four SJAI regional chairman on the committee will consider the selection and, as a failsafe, they can vote to reject the chef d’equipe’s team. But such a scenario is considered unlikely. If there is a tie among the four regional chairmen, the chef d’equipe has a casting vote. A chef d’equipe for the B team is also being mooted.

lFOUR faults in round one ensured Jessica Kürten, riding Quibell, was not one of the 15 to battle it out for points in the World Cup Qualifier in Stuttgart, Germany, last weekend.

German riders dominated the competition, with Marcus Ehning coming out ahead of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst.

Gerco Schroder’s 12th-place augmented his two good US results and his Oslo win to see him extend his lead in the Western European League. The Dutchman now has 44 points, 16 more than Swiss rider Beat Mandli.

Kürten was not without a modicum of success at the German fixture, riding Quibell to fourth in a speed and handiness class. The German-based rider also steered Castle Forbes Libertina to fifth place in the German Masters with four faults in the jump-off of a competition in which Ludger Beerbaum (Gladdys S) provided the only double clear. The Ladies German Masters saw a repeat for Kürten and Castle Forbes Libertina, four faults in the jump-off placing her fifth.

The Antrim-born woman’s next outing is in the four-star show at Paris on December 2-4. Also pencilled in for the French fixture is Cian O’Connor, who will line out with Waterford Crystal.

O’Connor yesterday said the 14-year-old gelding was in “good shape”. O’Connor will also compete in the World Cup shows in Geneva, Switzerland, and Mechelen, Belgium.

Last weekend, he was the most prominent of a large Irish contingent that descended on Towerlands in Essex, England.

The Meath-based rider was quick out of the blocks, riding his new acquisition Zanoubia to a comfortable victory in the first class. The 11-year-old mare also carried him to third place in the speed grand prix. O’Connor teamed up with Casper - which he recently bought back from Jordan’s Princess Haya - to place fourth in Friday’s accumulator.

Ryan Crumley was best of the Irish in the grand prix, posting a relatively fast time in the jump-off with Baltimore, but four faults saw him slot into fifth.

Edward Doyle, aboard Effective, was two seconds off the pace in a 1.45m jump-off class, but nevertheless finished second of 72 starters. He also placed seventh in the accumulator with Pamela, as Dave Quigley picked up the maximum points in the same competition to finish fifth on CS Online.

Four faults in the jump-off saw Sarah Jane Treacy ride Little Lancer to ninth place in the Under-23 Derby Bowl Grand Prix.

lTHE blood samples from a horse that the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) said were “lost for no apparent reason” between its Paris lab and Newmarket lab were never lost, the organisation now claims.

Apparently, the samples “never left the Paris lab”.

It is apparent to the FEI now that a mistake was made. It is not readily apparent, however, how it occurred.

With no lost samples, the FEI yesterday said there is no reason to review its drug testing procedures, as were reported here last week.

The blood samples that were never lost were taken from the horse Buehler. Ridden by Italian event rider Susanna Bordone, the horse’s urine tested positive for a banned substance at Punchestown event last year.

The FEI yesterday agreed that the published report of the Judicial Committee on the Bordone case was “erroneous”.

The Swiss-based organisation also said this week that, aside from the B urine sample in the Cian O’Connor case, “there have been no lost or stolen samples”.

The sample from O’Connor’s horse Waterford Crystal was stolen at the entrance to the Newmarket lab.

The FEI said there are no links between the O’Connor and Bordone cases.

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