Olympics phoney war comes to an end

The phoney war in terms of which show jumper will represent Ireland at the Olympics came to an end last weekend in dramatic fashion with the first emphatic salvos fired by Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor.
Olympics phoney war comes to an end

The former finished fifth in the World Cup final in Gothenburg, Sweden, but was unique with All Star 5 in being the only combination to produce five clear rounds over the three days of competition. This earned him a deserved standing ovation from the appreciative audience at the Scandinavium Arena.

O’Connor received plaudits and €200,000 when he rode Good Luck to second place in the Million Dollar Grand Prix in Ocala, Florida. The Meath-based rider produced one of just three double clears over a course built by Tipperary man Alan Wade. For good measure, O’Connor’s student Lillie Keenan place third on Super Sox, a horse he had previously campaigned.

As important as the result for O’Connor, however, is the manner in which it was achieved. Good Luck just explodes over fences to such an extent that you feel the sentiment expressed in his name is not required, the stallion possessing the ability and talent to determine his own fortune in the hands of the Olympic bronze medalist.

There has been much debate (for want of a better word) on social media as to the merits of the best rider to represent Ireland in Rio de Janeiro, notably concerning Bertram Allen and O’Connor.

It is true that the former won the spot for Ireland, but that was primarily through his efforts last year with Molly Malone. Everyone would, or at least should, agree that it is what happens in the sporting arena from herein, as distinct to the cyber arena, that will determine Ireland manager Robert Splaine’s selection.

Thus, in real terms, not virtual, the superlative performances of Lynch and O’Connor last weekend will have caught the attention of Splaine and Allen, plus another rival for the Olympic place, Greg Broderick, with MHS Going Global, owned by Canadian Lee Kruger.

Can we read anything, therefore, into the fact Splaine reserved his praise for Lynch?

“These World Cup finals are a championships at the very highest level and for Denis and All Star to jump five clear rounds was an outstanding performance. They are a combination who are clearly on form and the ease with which they jumped these big World Cup courses was very impressive. To finish fifth is a brilliant result for Denis, his horse’s owners, and for Ireland, and he can probably count himself unlucky not to win after being the only pair not to knock a fence.”

Broderick, meanwhile, is gearing up to make his presence felt with MHS Going Global in the near future and is doing some prep work at the three-star show in Lanaken, Belgium, this weekend.

“I have five horses with me, including Going Global. I was in Bonheiden in Belgium, last weekend and was very happy with him. It was his first international this year and I was using it as a means to get him back up and running. He performed well. Basically, I’m building him up to the nations cup in Lummen in four weeks time. That’s my agenda.”

That agenda, of course, includes showing he has what it takes to win an Olympic medal.

“I’ve one of the best horses in the world and it certainly would be nice to be going to Rio. He proved it last year that he was the most consistent horse in the Irish team; he jumped the most clear rounds. He was the leading Irish horse in Lummen (4/0), La Baule (4/0), St, Gallen (0/0), and Dublin (0/0). He also jumped three clear rounds to finish third in his first Global Champions Tour.

“His experience last year will have served him well and I’m looking forward to seeing further improvement this year,” said Broderick, who underwent keyhole surgery for a groin and hip problem, which he said had gone well. “I’m in top shape and looking forward to the season ahead.”.

While it’s this year’s nations cup shows that will see the cream rise to the top, for comparison’s sake, here are the full results for last year’s nations cup contests mentioned by Broderick:

Lummen:

8th. Ireland 33 faults: Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) 8/8, Living the Dream (Cameron Hanley) 9/4, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 4/0, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 9/12.

La Baule:

3rd. Ireland 12 faults: Good Luck (C O’Connor) 9/0, Sans Soucis Z (Darragh Kenny) 4/4, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 4/0, Molly Malone (Bertram Allen) 0/8.

St Gallen:

3rd. Ireland 13 faults: Golden Hawk (Shane Breen) 0/8, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 0/0, Good Luck (Cian O’Connor) 4/5, Romanov (Bertram Allen) 0/8.

Dublin:

1st. Ireland 4 faults: Romanov (Bertram Allen) 4/0, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 0/0, Good Luck (Cian O’Connor) 0/4, Sans Soucis Z (Darragh Kenny) 0/DNS.

Ireland’s Olympic complement has been supplemented as a result of the good performances by paralympian Helen Kearney.

The Paralympic Games take place from September 7 to 18, with Ireland to be represented by an athlete nominated by the Horse Sport Ireland high-performance para-equestrian selection committee, based on performances at designated competitions this year.

Kearney’s achievement means there will be at least six riders carrying the Irish colours at Rio, four eventers, one show jumper, and one dressage rider, most likely Judy Reynolds, who won the place and last weekend finished eighth in the World Cup final, the first time an Irish dressage rider has competed in the competition.

* French show jumping superstar Pénélope Leprévost has declared herself “deeply sorry” that she “over-reacted” when mistreating her mountVagabond de la Pomme during the warm up for the last competition of World Cup final on Monday.

The 35-year-old from Rouen was trotting her mount on a relaxed rein when the 10-year-old Belgian-bred stumbled, his nose touching the dirt and his forelegs crumbling.

When he righted himself, Leprévost yanked on the reins and proceeded to kick him hard on a couple of occasions. The incident was filmed and it led to a backlash on social media.

The FEI has launched an investigation, saying the rider had acted “very roughly”.

Leprévost, in a statement, said: “People have been upset by images broadcast via social networks of my horse Vagabond de la Pomme, who nearly fell during the warm-up before the World Cup Final in Gothenburg.

“My horse was trotting, very relaxed and with his head down, when he stumbled. It was actually quite frightening and I really thought that both of us were going to fall down. I immediately checked that he was not injured. I then wanted him to pull himself together. My goal was to wake him up but not to push him too hard. The French team's vet also checked that he was fine and had no problems.

“I am deeply sorry that I over-reacted and was too strong with my horse and I want to express my sincere apologies.

“I place great importance on the trust and cooperation between myself and my horses. I also have the greatest respect for their state of mind and their physical well-being.”

An FEI spokesman said: “The FEI is looking into the full circumstances of the incident in which the French horse Vagabond de la Pomme stumbled very badly prior to the first round of Monday’s competition and the rider, Penelope Leprevost, reacted very roughly. The FEI steward on duty in the warm-up reported the incident to the FEI and also to the FEI chief steward.

“The French team vet Jérôme Thévenot also saw the horse stumbling, but felt that the horse was fine to go into the arena. Vagabond de la Pomme was clear in the first round, and was given a thorough check over in the stables afterwards by Jérôme Thévenot, who reported that the horse was perfectly fine.

“Horse welfare is central to everything the FEI does, and is also a priority for both the Swedish National Federation and the organising committee of the Gothenburg Horse Show. The FEI’s Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse is in place to ensure that horse welfare is protected at all FEI events.”

The FEI did not respond to a query as to any possible sanctions faced by Léprévost.

Footage of the incident can be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/idasofie.friisgehlert.9/videos/823061271171532

* The aforementioned Bertram Allen has signed for Valkenswaard United, one of the 12 teams in the inaugural Global Champions League (GCL).

The 15-leg league begins on Sunday, April 10, in Miami Beach, with teams of five riders, including a maximum of two top-30 ranked athletes for the 1.50mtr/1.55mtr competition. At least one rider will be aged under 25.

Two riders will be selected to compete at each event on the circuit, which follows the calendar of the Longines Global Champions Tour. The teams will compete for a share of the GCL €7.5m prize money.

Valkenswaard United also includes British veteran John Whitaker, Eduardo Menezes (Brazil), Alberto Zorzi (Italy), and American Emily Moffitt (U25).

The league comes after the organisers won a legal battle in which the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) and then the Brussels Court of Appeal said the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) could not sanction riders for competing in the league.

The league is considered a rival to the FEI's nations cup competitions.

In December the FEI suspended its exclusivity rule with regard to the participation of athletes and horses in the Global Champions League, as directed by the BCA, and issued a statement saying: "No athlete or horse can be suspended or sanctioned because of their participation in a competition organised by the Global Champions League."

However, FEI President Ingmar De Vos vowed that the FEI would continue to fight the decision of the BCA with all legal means.

“The GCL is still an unsanctioned event, which is not approved by the FEI, and we are still seeking a full annulment of the decision,” said Ingmar De Vos in a press release.

* Top US amateur show jumper Laura Linback is reported to be in a stable condition after suffering a head injury last Saturday when her horse collapsed and died at the Million Dollar Grand Prix HITS show in Ocala, Florida.

The Illinois rider underwent surgery to relieve pressure from brain swelling and remains unconscious and on a ventilator. On The Chronicle Of The Horse, her husband, Troy Linback, said her brain pressure remains low, which is a good sign.

"Her family flew in and has been at her side. She is a fighter, and we are very grateful for all the well wishes and prayers from the horse show world," said Troy.

Linback was injured when her horse HH Dauphin died as she left the ring after completing the jump-off of an amateur-owner jumper class.

- French show jumping superstar Pénélope Leprévost has declared herself “deeply sorry” that she “over-reacted” when mistreating her mount Vagabond de la Pomme during the warm up for the last competition of World Cup final on Monday.

The 35-year-old from Rouen was trotting her mount on a relaxed rein when the 10-year-old Belgian-bred stumbled, his nose touching the dirt and his forelegs crumbling.

When he righted himself, Leprévost yanked on the reins and proceeded to kick him hard on a couple of occasions. The incident was filmed and it led to a backlash on social media. The FEI has launched an investigation, saying the rider had acted “very roughly”.

Leprévost, in a statement, said: “People have been upset by images broadcast via social networks of my horse Vagabond de la Pomme, who nearly fell during the warm-up before the World Cup Final in Gothenburg.

"My horse was trotting, very relaxed and with his head down, when he stumbled. It was actually quite frightening and I really thought that both of us were going to fall down.

I immediately checked that he was not injured. I then wanted him to pull himself together. My goal was to wake him up but not to push him too hard. The French team's vet also checked that he was fine and had no problems.

“I am deeply sorry that I over-reacted and was too strong with my horse and I want to express my sincere apologies.

“I place great importance on the trust and cooperation between myself and my horses. I also have the greatest respect for their state of mind and their physical well-being.”

An FEI spokesman said: “The FEI is looking into the full circumstances of the incident in which the French horse Vagabond de la Pomme stumbled very badly prior to the first round of Monday’s competition and the rider, Penelope Leprevost, reacted very roughly. The FEI steward on duty in the warm-up reported the incident to the FEI and also to the FEI chief steward.

“The French team vet Jérôme Thévenot also saw the horse stumbling, but felt that the horse was fine to go into the arena. Vagabond de la Pomme was clear in the first round, and was given a thorough check over in the stables afterwards by Jérôme Thévenot, who reported that the horse was perfectly fine.

“Horse welfare is central to everything the FEI does, and is also a priority for both the Swedish National Federation and the organising committee of the Gothenburg Horse Show. The FEI’s Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse is in place to ensure that horse welfare is protected at all FEI events.”

The FEI did not respond to a query as to any possible sanctions faced by Léprévost.

- The aforementioned Bertram Allen has signed for Valkenswaard United, one of the 12 teams in the inaugural Global Champions League (GCL).

The 15-leg league begins on Sunday, April 10, in Miami Beach, with teams of five riders, including a maximum of two top-30 ranked athletes for the 1.50mtr/1.55mtr competition. At least one rider will be aged under 25.

Two riders will be selected to compete at each event on the circuit, which follows the calendar of the Longines Global Champions Tour. The teams will compete for a share of the GCL €7.5m prizemoney.

Valkenswaard United also includes British veteran John Whitaker, Eduardo Menezes (Brazil), Alberto Zorzi (Italy), and American Emily Moffitt (U25).

The league comes after the organisers won a legal battle in which the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) and then the Brussels Court of Appeal said the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) could not sanction riders for competing in the league.

The league is considered a rival to the FEI's nations cup competitions.

In December the FEI suspended its rule with regard to the participation of athletes and horses in the Global Champions League, as directed by the BCA, and issued a statement saying: "No athlete or horse can be suspended or sanctioned because of their participation in a competition organised by the Global Champions League."

However, FEI President Ingmar De Vos vowed that the FEI would continue to fight the decision of the BCA with all legal means.

“The GCL is still an unsanctioned event, which is not approved by the FEI, and we are still seeking a full annulment of the decision,” said Ingmar De Vos in a press release.

- Top US amateur show jumper Laura Linback is reported to be in a stable condition after suffering a head injury last Saturday when her horse collapsed and died at the Million Dollar Grand Prix HITS show in Ocala, Florida.

The Illinois rider underwent surgery to relieve pressure from brain swelling and remains unconscious and on a ventilator. On The Chronicle Of The Horse, her husband, Troy Linback, said her brain pressure remains low, which is a good sign.

"Her family flew in and has been at her side. She is a fighter, and we are very grateful for all the well wishes and prayers from the horse show world," said Troy.

Linback was injured when her horse HH Dauphin died as she left the ring after completing the jump-off of an amateur-owner jumper class.

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