The Irish team of Shane Sweetnam, Billy Twomey, Cian O’Connor and Cameron Hanley pulled off a spectacular win in the first leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup Superleague in La Baule, France at the weekend, beating the world’s other seven best teams when finishing on 13 faults.
A single time fault from Shane Sweetnam and ‘Amaretto Darco’ gave the Irish quartet a promising start, and four faults apiece from Billy Twomey and ‘Romanov’ and Cian O’Connor on the Irish-bred ‘Larkhill Cruiser’ set the team up for Cameron Hanley’s zero score with ‘Southwind VDL’ to leave Ireland in equal second place at the halfway mark.
In a dramatic afternoon where deep shadows caused by bright sunshine spooked a significant number of experienced horses, leading to stops, run-outs and subsequent time penalties, the Irish managed to hold on to their low tally of penalties, with O’Connor’s ‘Larkhill Cruiser’ delivering a second Irish clear round on its Nations’ Cup debut to leave the team on 13 faults, just behind Belgium.
However Jos Lansink, Belgium’s last man in, lowered two fences to put his team on a total of two penalties adrift of the triumphant Irish at the final bell. Germany placed third on 16 faults.
Team Ireland Equestrian show jumping manager Robert Splaine said afterwards: “This was a great win for Ireland, in the first leg of the 2011 Nations Cup league, and I have to applaud the commitment of the riders who made themselves available for their country today.
“There were great performances from everyone, but especially the Irish-bred Larkhill Cruiser, making his debut at this level and producing a vital clear round for the team. Olympic qualification is still my priority this year, but I am delighted with this start to the Nations Cup season.”
The seventh leg of the Nations’ Cup Superleague will be at the Dublin Horse Show in August.