FOR the second consecutive year, Cork’s Billy Twomey was crowned senior show jumper of the year by The Irish Field, at a ceremony in the Royal Dublin Society on Monday, writes Isabel Hurley.

Master of ceremonies Brendan McArdle welcomed those present, and reminded everyone of Twomey’s outstanding achievements in 2011.

The rider, who also looks set to secure one of Ireland’s two individual show jumping places at this summer’s London Olympic Games, enjoyed victories in the five-star Grands Prix at Basel and Zurich, along with a valuable win in the Global Champions Tour in Valencia last year.

He also formed part of Ireland’s Nations Cup-winning team at La Baule, and was part of Ireland’s Aga Khan team that finished such a close second to the British winners last August in Dublin. Twomey finished the year on a high note when he partnered Sue Davies’ mare Tinka’s Serenade to win the prestigious Rolex IRJC Top 10 Final in Paris.

Accepting his award from Irish Horse World editor Sascha Geraghty, Twomey thanked The Irish Field and paid special tribute to “the owners, my staff and family for all their help, and making it happen.”

Camilla Speirs received the senior eventing award from Leo Powell, managing editor of The Irish Field, and she paid tribute to her parents and all those who supported her in 2011. Speirs, who won the junior award in 2008, was accepting her first senior title, and was accompanied to the ceremony by her mother Bridget and father Niall.

Best ever

“To win this award is the best thing ever,” she said, adding that she was also enjoying being a new columnist for the paper. “Let’s hope this year is a good one,” she said to loud applause. The 21-year-old event rider recorded a good second-place in the under 25 three-star class at Bramham, before finishing third at the three-star in Hopetoun.

Riding Portersize Just A Jiff, Speirs went on to finish 25th at the European Eventing Championships, but the highlight of her season was a runner-up finish at the three-star Boekelo event which put her, and Ireland, firmly in place for Olympic qualification.

Anna Merveldt won the dressage award for the eighth year when she achieved a personal best score of 75.725% at the three-star show in Vienna with her mount Coryolano. The Irish Field’s dressage correspondent Becky Lee accepted the award on Merveldt’s behalf.

Bertram Allen

Wexford’s Bertram Allen (16) earned his second junior show jumping title after winning an individual medal at the European Championships last year. Riding Acapella Z, he claimed individual silver in Poland, and was part of Ireland’s silver medal-winning team.

A son of Geraldine and Bert Allen, Bertram won the Grand Prix at Chevenez, where he was part of Ireland’s Nations Cup-winning squad. The rider is currently spending his transition year in Germany, where he is honing his equitation skills and attending school there to learn German.

Attending the awards with his mother, Bertram said: “I’m going back to Germany this evening, and am working towards the juniors this year.” The young rider picked out the European Championships in Poland as his highlight of 2011. He is currently riding Wild Thing, a horse previously ridden by Billy Twomey.

Junior eventer

Junior eventing award winner Jodie O’Keeffe also ended her pony career on a high when she won the individual bronze medal at the European Championships in Poland, along with being part of Ireland’s silver medal-winning team on Castleview Rakish Milly.

Jodie, the daughter of Cork’s Ann and Joe O’Keeffe who attended Monday’s ceremony, won four two-star pony competitions on Castleview Rakish Milly, and four junior classes on Kachemire Le Beau, including a junior one-star victory at the Ballindenisk International Horse Trials during a memorable 2011.

Similar to Allen, Jodie is spending her transition year at an international sports academy school in Madrid, SEK El Castillo, where she receives equitation instruction from Manuel Andres Moya, a noted show jumper in his own right. Her 2011 highlights were the Europeans in Poland and her successes at Tattersalls and Ballindenisk.

Before the awards ceremony, Leo Powell paid tribute to all of the staff and contributors who work together each week to produce The Irish Field.

Lord Patrick Carew then paid tribute to Powell and his team on producing such a “high-quality, comprehensive paper that covers racing, breeding and the equestrian calendar so thoroughly each week”.


DICK Francis has not ridden since January 11th, when he was kicked in the stomach and broke a wrist after Prince Stephen fell at Newbury. Now comes news of his decision to retire at the age of 36 on the advice of his friends, and “before I slip too quickly down the scale”.

Dick Francis was a very popular man, and a horseman of great accomplishments. He was, in my opinion, the typical Liverpool [Aintree] horseman with his long stirrups and quiet, unruffled style. Over the big jumps I would say he had no superior, though when it came to a driving finish over hurdles he lacked the ‘devil’ of other riders.

His departure is genuinely regretted. As one of his colleagues put it: “It is the passing of the best type of jockey, the best type of man”. However Francis hopes to get “some sort of job in racing”, and that is unlikely to be long in coming.

[Born in Wales, Richard Stanley Francis rode more than 350 winners and was champion jockey in the 1953-54 season. From 1953 to 1957 he rode for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and is forever associated with the inexplicable ‘fall’ of Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National with the race at his mercy.

On his retirement he rejected the idea of having an established writer pen his story, and instead wrote his autobiography, the best-selling The Sport of Queens. Its success led to his appointment as racing correspondent for The Sunday Express, a role he had for 16 years.

In 1962 his first novel, Dead Cert, was published and this was the start of an illustrious and hugely successful career that spanned more than 40 best-sellers. He worked closely with his wife Mary and first collaborated with his son Felix on the 2007 novel Dead Heat.

Today Felix continues to write works which bear the imprint of being ‘A Dick Francis novel’.

Dick once said of the teamwork with his wife: “Mary and I worked as a team. I have often said that I would have been happy to have both our names on the cover. Mary’s family always called me Richard due to having another Dick in the family. I am Richard, Mary was Mary, and Dick Francis was the two of us together.”

Honoured many times in the field of literature, Dick Francis was given an OBE in 1983 and promoted to CBE in 2000. The latter was a year after he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature]