Equestrian: Twomey pipped at the post by old mentor
Billy Twomey's former mentor Michael Whitaker pipped the Irishman at the post in a thrilling FEI World Cup qualifier at Olympia, London yesterday.
Twomey was fulsome in his praise of his former boss, whose victory for Britain was little short of sensational. "The best man won here today" said the 33 year-old-Corkman, who finished ahead of European champion and world No 1 Kevin Staut from France in third.
The Christmas fixture at the London venue has been a happy hunting ground for the Irish again this year, with Cian O'Connor recording a win last Thursday on Umberto, and second place with the same horse in Friday's Mistletoe Stakes before topping the line-up again in Saturday night's Santa Stakes with Splendor.
The Meath rider was unlucky, however, when picking up four faults with the latter in the opening round of yesterday's World Cup challenge, from which 16 horse-and-rider combinations emerged to jump off against the clock.
Course designer Guilherme Jorge set them a clever route in the timed round, with super-sharp turning required if you were to stay in the game.
Twomey was fourth-last into the ring and slashed almost a half-second off the target set by Staut and his bucking bronco of a ride, Le Prestige de St Lois.
The Irishman displayed the skill and judgment that has elevated him to No 9 in the world rankings, as he brought Sue Davies' mare Tinka's Serenade through the timers in 35.74 seconds.
But his advantage was short-lived as Whitaker shaved two hundredths of a second more off that target-time with a superb round on GIG Amai that proved the winner and brought the home spectators to their feet as their hero recorded the 13th British World Cup victory at Olympia.
"My mare has been jumping consistently well for the past year or 18 months, and this was a really hot class," Twomey said afterwards. "The three of us (Whitaker, Twomey and Staut) spared our horses during the week and we've reaped the benefits today," he added.
Yesterday's result lifts him to fourth place on the World Cup leaderboard -- behind three-time World Cup champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum in third, Sweden's Olympic silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in second and Staut in pole position -- ahead of the next leg, which will take place at Mechelen, Belgium next week.
A total of 13 qualifying rounds take place before the final in Leipzig, Germany next April.
The London fixture continues today with the Grand Prix in which O'Connor is defending champion after his victory last December with Rancorrado.
Meanwhile, Denis Lynch finished second with Lantinus in the Grand Prix at Frankfurt yesterday, which won by Germany's Janne-Frederike Meyer.
At La Coruna in Spain on Saturday, Jessica Kuerten won the NH Hotels Trophy with Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois, who then went on to fill runner-up spot in the Grand Prix.