Equestrian: Lynch heads Irish team's Olympic bid
Qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games is the main target for the Irish squad at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), which get under way at the Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday.
The show jumping and eventing teams must finish in the top five to earn a spot at London 2012, and show jumping team manager Robert Splaine is in upbeat mood about his side's chances.
Irish show jumpers are in impressive form right now, with three listed in the top 15 in the latest Rolex World Rankings.
Denis Lynch has moved into sixth place, Jessica Kuerten is in eighth, with Billy Twomey in 15th, and they are backed up by Cian O'Connor in 32nd and Shane Breen in 38th.
However, Kuerten, who with Castle Forbes Libertina would have been a strong favourite for an individual medal, is not travelling. Her mare is fit and well after recovering from injury but, on veterinary advice, she cannot be jumped until three days before the WEG begins.
With 2002 World champion Lennon and Hallmark Elite now back on form after the blip that followed the horse's nasty fall at Hickstead in July, manager Splaine now has at his disposal the full team that won the prestigious Aachen Nations Cup in July.
Lennon's third-place finish in the Madrid Grand Prix two weeks ago restored his manager's confidence in the partnership that was so impressive during the indoor World Cup series earlier this year, but has dipped and peaked a few times since then.
The jumping team also includes O'Connor and K Club Lady, Lynch, whose top horse Lantinus is backed up by his second-string Nabab's Son, and Twomey, who has been in spectacular form and who won three classes, including the Grand Prix, at Barcelona last weekend.
The mare, Tinka's Serenade, will be Twomey's first choice but he also has the option of taking the stallion Je T'Aime Flamenco, while fifth man is US-based Shane Sweetman with Amaretto Darco.
The European-based show jumping horses fly out next Monday but the eventers are already in Lexington, which has been experiencing temperatures of up to 34 degrees over the last few days.
As a result of late injury problems for both Michael Ryan's Ballylynch Adventure and reserve rider Jayne Doherty's The Only One, army rider Capt Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet got a late call-up for the eventing team despite having completed the super-tough Burghley Horse Trials just over two weeks ago.
It's unusual for a horse to line out in two events of this magnitude in such a short space of time, but Curran says The Jump Jet is in "the best form of his life". And HSI high performance manager Ginny Elliott confirmed that both the Army and team vets have passed the horse fit to compete.
Curran joins Mark Kyle (Step in Time), Elizabeth Power (Kilpatrick River), Camilla Spiers (Portersize Just A Jiff) and Sam Watson (Horseware Bushman).
Ireland also fields competitors in three of the other six disciplines. Judy Reynolds (Remember) is the sole dressage representative, James O'Dwyer (Orlando) will compete in para-equestrian and Cavan's Ben Balow (Whizardrie n Starlite) will line out in reining. Chef de mission is Colonel Ned Campion.