Shane Sweetnam got “two new toys” for Christmas, Buckle Up and Cobolt, but when it comes to fun, Chaqui Z remains the top plaything.
The Corkman had some decent results last year with the stallion and is hoping to be at the top of his game in the next couple of months to book his place in the World Cup finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the end of March.
“Chaqui Z is 10 this year and he has the experience from last year. In fact, in every grand prix since Dublin he has been placed. I’m hoping for big things from him this year and the main target early on is the World Cup final.
“There are only two World Cup qualifiers in Florida this year, but I’m hoping that if I got at least one good result I can make it to the final. I have 24 points, so a top-three placing would get me there,” said Sweetnam, who is familiar with the Scandinavium Arena, having lined out in the finals in Gothenburg in 2013.
“You never know how things will go, but if we don’t make it, I will look to get good results in the $500,000 grand prix here at WEF [Winter Equestrian Festival] in early April, and the million dollar class at the HITS Winter Circuit in Ocala at the end of March.”
Sweetnam, meanwhile, is gearing up for the 12-week WEF, which started this week in Wellington, Florida, and he sees his two new Scandinavian additions as the perfect understudies to Chaqui Z.
Buckle Up, a 10-year-old gelding, was previously ridden by Norway’s Ole Kristoffer Meland and featured in four World Cup qualifiers last year, while he also carried Meland to victory in the three-star grand prix in Odense, Denmark.
Cobolt was purchased from Swede Nillas Arvidsson and competed up to 1.55mtr level.
“They just arrived this week on the farm. I had sold a number of horses over the last few years and Solorina had retired, so I needed new horses, really. The schedule is so busy here and you have Europe in the summer, you would need at least four grand prix horses to be competitive.
“Both are up-and-coming, are at a good age and ready to start at the top level and I’m expecting good things from them. They are more than capable of good results in the grands prix at WEF.”
Meanwhile, Richie Moloney (Boriena H) got Ireland off to a good start when runner-up in the opening class at WEF on Wednesday.
One rider sure to give Sweetnam some competition in the coming months in Florida is Conor Swail.
The Co Down rider was a hot commodity last year and is already making good on his promise in this column recently to battle his way into the world rankings top 10, scoring a win in the $50,000 grand prix at the Palm Beach this week with Martha Louise. Swail had over 1.5 seconds to spare over Offaly’s Darragh Kenny on Picolo in a nine-horse jump-off.
“I thought Darragh was very fast. I really had to hustle hard to beat him and I have to say everything happened the way we wanted it too. She jumped very well, but it was one of those jump-offs where you couldn’t leave anything on the table. You couldn’t miss a step and thankfully she was very alert since she has not competed since November. It was fantastic,” said Swail, who also placed ninth with Rubens LS La Silla.
Neither of the above riders will have any competition from US-based Galway native Andrew Bourns, who has been hit with a four-month ban, beginning on January 1, for “excessively whipping” a horse at WEF last March.
According to the US Equestrian Federation, at the Winter Equestrian Festival on March 18-22 last year, Bourns “was seen excessively whipping the horse, Tztargazer, while returning to the stall, which resulted in severe welts on the right and left flanks of the horse”.
Interestingly, he could also face sanction by Horse Sport Ireland, who yesterday said there had been no update on their position from the start of the week, when they said the following: “We have not yet received any official notification from the USEF of the suspension, nor have we yet received any application from Andrew Bourns for an international licence to ride for Ireland in 2016. If such an application is made, we may refer the matter to the HSI Disciplinary Officer, who would decide on the appropriate course of action based on the HSI rules. The matter could be referred to the HSI Disciplinary panel,” said a HSI spokesperson.
Bourns told the Irish Examiner at the weekend that, while he understands he had to be punished, he did not feel a four-month suspension was justified.
“I recognise the USEF have a duty to govern the sport and accept they had to punish me, but the severity of the sanction caught me by surprise. I think it’s a little bit excessive,” said Bourns.
“I’m a fair person and I follow the rules. My owners and everybody involved in my business have been very understanding and supportive. They’ve all been loyal and are standing by me.”
Dermott Lennon almost took first blood with Vampire at the the World Cup show in Leipzig, Germany, yesterday, but the Down rider fell short by a second in the opening speed class.
Victory went to Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano (Guess 6), with Tipperary’s Denis Lynch and Blue Silver finishing fourth of the 62 starters.
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