Equestrian: Kuerten calls on Irish to raise bar in Kentucky
There was a air of unified determination at the launch of the Team Ireland Equestrian Initiative launched at the Radisson Hotel at Dublin Airport yesterday morning.
The equestrian body, Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), is placing a clear focus on qualifying both show jumping and eventing teams for the 2012 Olympic Games through good results at this year's World Equestrian Games (WEG), which take place in Kentucky from September 25 to October 10.
And High Performance managers Robert Splaine and Ginny Elliott are upbeat about Irish prospects.
Show jumping manager Splaine said that the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup series, which kicks off on May 14, will be central to preparation for the WEG.
"It's important for us to keep our place in the series because that's where all the elite teams compete and it's a measure of our strength, but we also have to ensure that we don't overuse the best horses ahead of the WEG -- it's a bit of a balancing act," he pointed out.
He will make his WEG selection after Dublin Horse Show, but the obvious contenders are the top five in the current world rankings, Jessica Kuerten, Cian O'Connor, Cameron Hanley, Billy Twomey and Denis Lynch. And Kuerten says Ireland should be aiming for a top-three finishing spot in Kentucky.
"It's time we started really going for medals instead of just qualification," she said, "and the Olympic Games in 2012 is another huge goal, we must send a top team to London."
Kuerten's first target this year is the World Cup Final in Geneva in April for which she is well qualified after a great run with Castle Forbes Libertina. "She's back to her best," she said of the super mare, which she describes as having "an extreme personality".
She wouldn't be drawn on whether she will put Libertina forward for Kentucky. But she has two other great mares in Castle Forbes Cosma and Myrtille Paulois.
Meanwhile, eventing manager Elliott said Badminton, Tattersalls and Luhmuhlen will be her main selection venues this summer. And Ireland's chances here are boosted by the return of Captain Geoff Curran's 2008 Olympic ride Kilkishen, which will be aimed at Badminton, while his second ride, The Jump Jet, will travel to the 4-Star at Kentucky in April.