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European Championships - O'Connor Best Of Irish In Opening Battle Of The Giants

WITH THE all-important Nations Cup looming tomorrow (Friday), the four riders who must defend Ireland's European Show Jumping Championship title rode careful but determined rounds on their top horses in the Speed Class at Donaueschingen today (Thursday).

For individual points gained today may count in the final reckoning for Olympic qualification if the quartet fails to shine sufficiently brightly in the team event tomorrow. But as today's Speed Class horse will also be tomorrow's Nations Cup horse, all riders were acutely aware of the gamble in pushing their animals too hard in this opening battle of the European giants

.With a staggering line-up of 77 of Europe's very best riders and horses, it was Ireland's 23 year-old Cian O'Connor who emerged as an early Top Ten contender, jumping halfway down the running order on <Waterford Crystal> but clocking up a fault-free round of 84.54 seconds that put him into Fifth at the halfway stage.

Kevin Babington on <Carling King> were holding onto 11th place at the same stage with a clear round of 89.09, but as the heavy guns from France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany started to take their toll, both Irish riders slipped inexorably down the rankings.

Billy Twomey on <Luidam> managed a respectable 88.01 seconds, that included one fence down and took him higher on the leaderboard than team-mate Babington, while Robert Splaine on <Coolcorron Cool Diamond> had a fast time of 82.47 but incurred enough faults to finish him on a total of 94.47.

In the end, it was only O'Connor who managed to finish in the Top 20, tying in 13th place with German ace Ludger Beerbaum on <Goldfever>, but both Twomey (26th) and Babington (29th) kept within the Top 30, signalling that Ireland will still be a force to be reckoned with tomorrow.


Prize of the town of Donaueschingen and of the
Ministry for Food and Rural Area Baden-Württemberg
International Speed and Handiness Competition
First rating for the European Individual and Team Championships

1) Equest Carnute; Velin, Thomas (DEN) Time 77.36
2) For Pleasure; Ehning, Marcus (GER) Time 77.38
3) Pozitano; Mandli, Beat (SUI) Time 78.31

=13) Waterford Crystal; O'Connor, Cian (IRL) Time 84.54
=13) Goldfever ; Beerbaum, Ludger (GER) Time 84.54

26) Luidam; Twomey, Billy (IRL ) Time 88.01
29) Carling King; Babington, Kevin (IRL) Time 89.09
44) Coolcorron Cool Diamond; Splaine, Robert (IRL) Time 94.47

77 starters


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