In the Suez Environment class, over 1,55m fences, the Irish Billy Twomey is the fastest of the 46 riders on his 18 years old mare, Tinka’s Serenade.
Like in the previous class, the riders had to clear the course but also be as quick as possible to get to the podium. The technical difficulty of the course, in spite of being fluid, caused a few problems to most of the contenders, since only 8 of them managed to cross the finish line without penalties. While the Canadian Eric Lamaze (2008 Olympic champion) and Fine Lady were in the lead since the beginning of the class, with a time of 71″02 that seemed unbeatable, the Irish Billy Twomey and his faithful Tinka’s Serenade did not hesitate to push them down to second place with a time of 70″92. “Tinka’s has been fantastic, like she has been for the past nine years. She was already excellent as a young horse. She is still very happy, and healthy. I try to save her; she only does two shows a month. She will be in the Grand Prix on Sunday.”
8th and best French, riding Silver Deux de Virton HDC, Olivier Guillon, very happy to see how his partner improved. “I have been riding him for the past four years. Today for the first time I was able to control him all along the course. He did not try to escape. With a lot of work, his behaviour finally changed; he just needed time.”
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.