THE FIRST leg of top level competition in the FEI Nations’ Cup Series kicks off at La Baule, France, on Friday (May 13). This year’s date, just two weeks after the World Cup Final in Leipzig, should ensure the participation of the world’s best horses, as both riders and their mounts will already be on the European continent. Two hundred thousand euro in prize money will be on offer for Friday’s Nations’ Cup, the first of the prestigious eight-stage circuit.
Team Ireland Equestrian Show Jumping Manager, Robert Splaine, has selected a squad of five Irish riders to compete at La Baule with four of these riders being selected to jump on the team on Friday May 13. They are Shane Carey (Lancero), Cameron Hanley (Southwind VDL), Cian O’Connor (Splendor), Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto Darco) and Billy Twomey (Je t’Aime Flamenco or Romanov).
For 2011, the FEI Nations’ Cup has returned to its original format of eight participating teams competing over two rounds.
Last year the Irish team finished sixth in La Baule and went on the finish fourth in the Superleague, thus retaining the team’s status in the elite series. To avoid relegation Ireland will need to finish in the top six of the eight teams in the Series.
Action kicks off at the French venue at 15.35pm (GMT) on May 13 and can be watched live on the subscr
Team Ireland Equestrian Show Jumping Manager, Robert Splaine, said: “This will be a very challenging league for us as the main aim for the year will be the European Championships in Madrid, where Olympic qualification will be at stake.
“My main goal will be preparing combinations for these championships and giving potential combinations every opportunity to prepare and also using the Superleague Nations’ Cups as a testing ground for other combinations who have championship ambition. Superleague is the closest level to a Championship.
“La Baule itself will be very competitive but we have five very experienced riders and I am hopeful of good result to get us off to a solid start,” he said.
“Shane Carey and Lancero have been progressing well during last season and over the winter and they continued with that progress in the Nations’ Cup in Lummen last week.
“Cameron Hanley’s horse, Southwind VDL, has shown tremendous potential but unfortunately didn’t get to compete as much as we would have liked last year. He has returned to action this year and has already had some solid results.
“Cian O’Connor is a rock solid Nations’ Cup rider and has produced good results with Splendor during the winter and this spring, “ he continued.
“Shane Sweetnam and Amaretto Darco have lined out for Ireland in Nations’ Cups on previous occasions. Shane, who is based in America, returns to European shows yet again this year.
“Billy Twomey has had a spectacular year and he has built up a good team of horses. Je t’Aime Flamenco has been a very successful Nations’ Cup and Grand Prix horse and has contributed to Billy’s rise up the world ranking list, while his new ride Romanov has had some very encouraging results recently.”