La Baule, 13 May 2011 – Ireland won the opening leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup series in a nail-biting thriller at La Baule in France today. On an afternoon when the form-book was turned on its head, Robert Splaine’s side of Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto Darco), Billy Twomey (Romanov), Cian O’Connor (Larkhill Cruiser) and Cameron Hanley (VDL Southwind) produced superb jumping to finish with a two-fault advantage over the runners-up from Belgium, while the mighty German side had to settle for third spot in the eight-nation clash.
Nations Cup jumping is never predictable, which is one of the reasons for its continuing popularity more than a century after it all began. But few could have expected that the host country – defending series champion and winners on their home turf in 2010 – would finish second-last, followed only by the newcomers from Denmark. On a difficult day for the Danes, already disadvantaged by the withdrawal of second-line rider Emilie Martinsen after her horse, Caballero, suffered a colic attack, they retired early in the second round. So they go into the next leg in Rome (ITA) in two weeks’ time already trailing on the leaderboard, and with a mountain to climb if they are to survive their debut-season at the elite level of this super-tough sport.
A FEW SURPRISES
Course designer, Frederic Cottier, appeared to have been quite lenient as the competition began, but by the end of the first round there had already been a few surprises including elimination for World No. 1 Kevin Staut whose mare, Silvana de Hus, stopped twice at the penultimate combination to the dismay of the home crowd.