Sweetnam on the Baule in France

  • 8 June 2024, 16:35
World number nine makes it three-in-a-row for Ireland in prestigious Derby

Shane Sweetnam is in a stellar run of form at just about the right time of the year, illustrated once more by winning the prestigious La Baule Derby today.

On the week in which he was revealed to be ninth in the Longines FEI world rankings, the Corkman piloted Irandole Du Flot to add another international five-star class to a an already jam-packed CV. In the process he was making it a famous three-in-a-row for Ireland in the elite contest, following in the footsteps of last year’s victor, Shane Breen and Denis Lynch, Breen’s fellow Tipperary native, who claimed the spoils in 2022.

While his immediate thoughts will now be turning to the Grand Prix (tomorrow), the Olympic aspirant will undoubtedly be hoping there is more success to come on French soil in the next two months.

Last into the arena in the Derby Région des Pays de la Loire on the ten-year-old mare owned by Sweet Oak Farm and Seabrook, Sweetnam showed quite clearly why he has become one of the very best on the planet, guiding his willing and talented partner through the mammoth examination of 26 jumping obstacles without a blemish.

Not alone did the partnership avoid any jumping errors, they also cut a huge two and a half seconds off the time of erstwhile leader and world number three Steve Guerdat (SUI), riding Easy Star de Talma, to bag the first prize of €15,620 with a time of 137.97 seconds.

“It’s a great win,” declared the enthusiastic Sweetnam afterwards. “That’s Irandole’s first Derby. She’s a very good horse, owned by the Gilbertson family, getting placed all the time, so it was great to get to the top of the podium with her.

“I obviously had a good draw. I was last to go and had seen Steve go. It’s still difficult to get a clear round but I knew I was on track and just tried to keep the pace up a little bit towards the end and pipped him.

“It’s lovely to win. It has always been a very special class, with a packed crowd there making it a great atmosphere and hopefully we can keep that up for the Grand Prix tomorrow (Sunday).”