A strong performance which included six clear rounds from the Michael Blake-managed Irish Show Jumping team of Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor & Foran Equine Riders Bertram Allen and Michael Duffy saw them finish as runners-up in the $150,000 four-star Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, which concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning.
It was an emotional evening for the Irish team who had been wearing black armbands in memory of well-known Irish trainer, breeder and owner of several top horses, Deirdre Bourns from Co Galway, who passed away earlier this week.
Cork’s Shane Sweetnam got Ireland off to a perfect start in round one with a clear aboard Karlin Van’t Vennehof, owned by Seabrook LLC and that set the tone for what would be an outstanding first round for Michael Blake’s team. A second clear followed for Foran Equine Rider Bertram Allen with The Irish Sport Horse Castlefield Vegas, owned by Martin Egan and then Foran Equine Rider Michael Duffy was also foot perfect with Zilton SL Z – owned by Katherine Duffy and HMF Equestrian. Another clear from Meath’s Cian O’Connor riding the anchor leg with Cadiz, owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd would leave Ireland on a perfect zero score and in the lead at the halfway stage. The home team from USA were close behind in second on just a time fault while Israel were third on four faults. Brazil were next best on eight faults with Canada and Britain on 12, while Mexico and Colombia finished round one on 20 faults.
Following the halfway break, the second round got underway under floodlights and Shane Sweetnam with Karlin Van’t Vennehof kept Ireland in control by completing a double clear performance. Bertram Allen and Castlefield Vegas (ISH) then finished with four faults before Michael Duffy and Zilton SL Z also completed with a single fence down. An excellent second round performance from the USA saw them add nothing to their first round score and even another Irish clear from Cian O’Connor as anchor rider with Cadiz, couldn’t deny the home team victory.
Winners USA finished on just a time fault with Ireland second on four faults. Brazil finished third on 14 with Israel fourth on 16 while Canada finished fifth on 20. Britain (24) finished sixth, with Colombia (29) in seventh while Mexico finished eighth on 33 faults.
The winning team were presented with the Denis Quinlan memorial trophy. Denis, who passed away in September of last year, was originally from Co Limerick before moving to Wellington, Florida and was instrumental in starting Nations Cup jumping in Florida and in supporting Irish riders.