Equestrian: Twomey leads three-pronged Irish bid for world final spots
Three Irish riders will contest the fifth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup jumping qualifying series in Stuttgart this weekend and, on current form, all have a good chance of making it to the final in Leipzig next April, writes LOUISE PARKES
Billy Twomey is the highest-placed Irish contender, his fifth-place finish with Tinka's Serenade at the fourth qualifier in Verona two weeks ago promoting him to 22nd position on the leaderboard. Next best is Jessica Kuerten in 27th -- just one spot ahead of Denis Lynch.
When the 13 qualifying rounds finish up in s'Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, next March, the top 18 riders from the Western European League will be eligible for a shot at the prestigious title, which has never been secured by an Irish rider throughout its 33-year history.
Kuerten came desperately close when finishing second, and just one point adrift of winner Marcus Ehning, from Germany, at the 2006 final in Kuala Lumpur.
But she is badly missing the services of her top ride, the mare Castle Forbes Libertina, which for the second year running has been absent for much of the season due to injury.
At home this weekend the Kingsland/SJI Autumn Grand Prix series continues with the penultimate leg at Kill Equestrian Centre on Sunday.
John Floody, who has already racked up two wins, further enhanced his lead on the league table at Coilog Equestrian Centre last Sunday when finishing fourth with Michael Smith's Larkhill Cruiser, which tops the Leading Horse rankings by a big margin.
But it was Conor Swail who claimed the latest honours, partnering Norman Allen's nine-year-old stallion Cara Touch, which was last season's leading horse. Swail pipped Tipperaryman Greg Broderick and the competitive Mrs Quinn, while 11-time national champion Francis Connors from Waterford slotted into third with his new ride, Dansson.
Monaghan's Clem McMahon won the previous leg at the Allianz Champions of the Year Show at Kill Equestrian Centre riding Valentino while army rider Lt Michael Kelly stole the limelight at Killossery Lodge with a spectacular speed round from the minister for defence's Lough Foyle.