Billy Twomey is one of Ireland’s best riders; last year he won the Rolex Grand Prix in Zürich, the Global Champions Tour in Valencia, was on the winning Irish Nations Cup team in La Baule and at the end of the year he won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 final in Paris. About the latter Billy says; “I didn’t really realize how big the class was until I got to Paris and saw how serious everybody was about it and how much hype there was surrounding the class! So it was really nice to win it!” Now Billy is on top of the FEI Olympic Athlete’s ranking; and will fight for the opportunity to go to London this summer. WoSJ sat down to talk to Billy about his Olympic chances, plans for 2012, his top horse Tinka’s Serenade and new arrivals.
Billy left his home country when he was only 16 years old, and went to stay with Albert Voorn for five months. Then he went to work for Michael Whitaker for almost five years, before he moved on to set up on his own. Billy stayed on in England, and is now based in Nottingham where he has his own yard with ten horses. Billy’s stable jockey Anthony Condon is based at the other yard at Pewit Stud in Cheshire, home of the stallions Luidam and Je T’aime Flamenco, with another 10-14 horses.
It currently looks like Ireland will get the chance to send two show jumpers to the Olympics, and as you top the ranking we’re guessing that you will be one of the riders that gets to go?
“The federation decides which rider or riders that gets to go to London, and although I and Denis [Lynch] are ranked the highest on the FEI Olympic Athlete’s ranking other riders could be chosen to go. Currently it looks like it will be the two of us though, but the decision will be made at the time for the deadline for the definitive entries which is about a month ahead of the Olympics. The federation has put up a list of criteria for the selection, but in the end my plan is my plan and I’ll stick to that. I will try to not do too many Nations Cup shows this year as they are quite hard on the horses. But I’ll aim for the Top League show in Rome, and also do some Global Champions Tour shows,” Billy explains about his plan for the season.
Without a team, how important is it to qualify more than one rider for Ireland?
“Of course it would be nice to have two riders qualified, but the fact that the Olympics are in London makes it less important for my part. It’s almost like home to me, so it’s not as intimidating as I could have been. But the more individuals we qualify, the better! And Denis and I get along well so it would be nice to go together with him.”
Last year the Irish team failed to qualify for the Olympics; what work needs to be done to improve the team for future championships?
“First of all I don’t think we had enough good horses to choose from last year; it was quite a job to fill up the team. When horses are sold or injured we are very vulnerable, so in order to get a stronger Irish team we need to improve the Irish string of horses. Owners have to be encouraged not to sell! Also I think the breeding situation on Ireland needs to be looked into, and we should ask ourselves whether or not we are breeding good enough horses.”
So, will it be Tinka’s Serenade that you are aiming for the Olympics?
“Yes, she’s been really good in the last two championships that she has jumped – within the top 15 both at the WEG in Kentucky and at the Europeans in Madrid. Tinka has the necessary experience to jump at the Olympics, so she would be my first choice,” Billy says.
How will you plan Tinka’s season ahead of the Olympics?
“First of all I have to stay disciplined. It’s very easy to be tempted to go to a lot of shows, but this season it’s important to keep her fresh. I will be focusing on jumping Tinka lightly, and hopefully she’ll peak at the right moment,” Billy smiles.
What about Je T’aime Flamenco – we haven’t seen him for a while?
“Je T’aime has had some time off due to a minor ligament problem. He’s been fulfilling his stud duties lately as well, so he’ll be back working again in a few weeks. Je T’aime is a little different than Tinka; the more he jumps the more he settles down. He can have a week or two off here and there and be fine with that,” Twomey explains.
You have some new and promising horses as well, could you tell us a little about them?
“Special Lux is one of them. He’s an 8 year old Irish bred gelding by Lux Z previously competed at 1.30 level by Desmond Judge. I co-own Special Lux with my long-time supporter Sue Davies. The way I see it Special Lux is a potential Grand Prix horse,” Billy says.
“Then there is Wings Sublieme. She’s a 9 year old mare by Oklund, and has been competed in Britain in 1.30 classes. I have gotten the ride to try and take her to the next level. Wings Sublieme has plenty of ability, and together with Special Lux she will compete in Spain in the future week so that they get more experience and hopefully can jump some bigger classes during the summer,” Twomey says.
"It’s been good with some new horses; I needed that – it’s been a little hard on Tinka lately and she’s jumped more than what was planned.”
Your owners Sue and Ed Davies seem very supportive; how did you start your cooperation with them?
“I came in touch with them when I was working for Michael. An event rider that came to train with us had a couple of horses that belonged to Ed and Sue, and that’s how we met. The first horse they bought for me was Anastasia, and then others like Luidam, Pikap, Tinka and Je T’aime followed. Now we also have Special Lux, and currently they own or co-own six of my horses,” Billy lets us know. “They really helped set me and my career up,” Billy closes off.
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