Friday 24 November 2017

Equestrian: Dwyer flies flag with sparkling display

Hero: James Dwyer
Hero: James Dwyer

Louise Parkes in Kentucky

Para-Dressage rider James Dwyer recorded the best result of all the Irish riders at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games when finishing sixth in the Grade IV Freestyle championship yesterday at the Horse Park in Kentucky.

The Pennsylvanian-based 40-year-old from Mooncoin in Kilkenny produced a sparkling performance from his Dutch-bred gelding Orlando, with extended trot and flying changes of the highest calibre.

However, some poor judging led to big differences in the scores from some of the ground jury members and Dwyer was particularly hard-hit with an 11pc contrast between judges at E and M.

Ireland's jumping hero, Billy Twomey, finished 11th in the world after Friday night's top-30 competition so didn't make the cut into Saturday night's final four, in which Belgian rider Philippe Le Jeune claimed the world title.

The surprise inclusion in the medal-decider was Saudi Arabian 28-year-old Abdullah Al Sharbatly, who faulted on his own brilliant mare Seldana di Campalto as the last competition got under way but was rescued by the pure class of the other three horses. His ride on Olympic champion Eric Lamaze's stallion Hickstead was a thriller.

He found the horse almost unrideable in the warm-up, but Hickstead simply carried the young Saudi rider home and this was good enough to earn him the silver medal spot ahead of the Canadian Lamaze, while Brazilian ace, Rodrigo Pessoa, had none of the luck to finish fourth.

Le Jeune, who admitted to caring a lot more for horses than for people, was an unexpected but popular new world champion, quietly steering all four horses home with consummate ease.

Meanwhile, the next generation of Irish show jumping stars enjoyed a great weekend at the international pony fixture in Chevenez in Switzerland.

On Friday they took the Nations Cup by storm and yesterday 15-year-old Wexford rider Bertram Allen steered Acapella Z to victory in the Grand Prix, which was a near-whitewash for the Irish contingent.

Emma O'Dwyer and Jeremy Sweetnam took third and fifth places, Paraic Kenny finished seventh and the fourth Irish team member, Tom Foley, slotted into 10th.

This was the perfect swansong for retiring Pony Chef d'Equipe Ian Fearon.

"We've now won every Nations Cup we've entered this year and it's a tribute to these ponies and their riders that they've stepped up to the top of the high performance programme so convincingly," he said.

"It's great to see these gifted young riders come up through the pony ranks, and to win the new European Challenge Cup series in its first year is a measure of the talent that we have."

Fourteen-year-old Foley, from Co Clare, also won the Individual Big Tour European Challenge Cup, while Kate McDonagh won the Small Tour European Cup.

Irish Independent

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