The Irish Show Jumping team have claimed a stunning victory in today’s Longines FEI Nations Cup of Britain at Hickstead, with the result moving Ireland up to third place on the league table and in the process are guaranteed a place in the 2018 Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona.
The heavy rain which lasted for almost the entire afternoon only added to the drama, as Ireland and the home team from Britain played out a thrilling battle, with a jump-off eventually needed to separate the top two teams.
Ireland were level with Britain at the halfway stage on eight faults apiece. Tipperary’s Trevor Breen looked to be heading for a clear round with Bombay when first to jump, before the last fence fell to leave them with four faults. Kilkenny’s Richie Moloney jumped a perfect clear with Freestyle De Muze, while Foran Equine rider, Galway’s Michael Duffy (EFS Top Contender) and Waterford’s Anthony Condon (SFS Aristio) both finished with a fence down each.
Breen repeated his four fault score second time out, before Moloney also came home with a single error. Ireland were coming under real pressure from Britain, especially when Amanda Derbyshire jumped clear with The Irish Sport Horse Luibanta BH.
Foran Equine rider Michael Duffy then delivered a vital clear which guaranteed Pessoa’s team at least a jump-off. Condon could win it with a clear when last to go, but he had an early rail down and knowing he could not improve Ireland’s 16 fault total, he decided to retire and save his horse for the jump-off to follow.
Holly Smith was selected to go against the clock for Britain with Hearts Destiny and put down a tough target when jumping clear in 43.39 seconds. Condon set off at a good pace with the John Hales-owned Aristio and were in touch midway through the round. The long-striding son of Arko made up huge ground on a daring gallop to the last and when they crossed the line clear in 41.29, victory would go to Ireland sparking wild celebrations in the Irish camp.
“I got to see Holly’s round, and her horse has got a big stride and is quite fast, but my horse is very fast so I had to go at his pace, and it worked,” said Condon. “He tried his heart out and was very quick to the last but he’s very careful so I could keep going.”
Britain finished second ahead of Brazil in third and Sweden in fourth followed by Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands.
Team manager Pessoa explained afterwards that he had already decided Condon would be his pick to go in a jump-off if needed,
“They had jumped well in first round, he is a fast horse with a fast rider and had just won a Grand Prix in Chantilly recently. We had a plan with Anthony what to do if he had a fence down in the last round. We thought they were the best pair for the job and they proved us right. The conditions were not easy but the ground held up very well. We were unlucky with some of the fences we had down with just a light rub and we got pushed against the wall midway through the second round when we got a crucial round from Michael Duffy. All the riders were good today. We had the advantage today of going last, so we could see what we had to do but Anthony still had to do it. He did a superb job to bring it home. We have been knocking on the door for a number of weeks and today finally we got the win.”
Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy commented:
“A massive congratulations to Rodrigo, his assistant Michael Blake, the High Performance Committee and their entire team on a fantastic win at such an iconic venue as Hickstead. It was brilliant to see this relatively young group of riders deliver a five-star Nations Cup win. They showed huge determination and their passion was fantastic to see for those in Hickstead and watching on TV. They really showed how much it means to represent their country. A special word of thanks must go to to Willy Matton, Equinimity LLC, Graham & Ben Dalton and John Hales who are the owners of our four winning horses today. They helped us deliver this great result, which is another boost ahead of the Aga Khan at the Dublin Horse Show and the upcoming World Equestrian Games. I also want to thank our team sponsors Devenish and The Underwriting Exchange for their continued support.”
Ireland now turn their attention to the final Nations Cup in Europe Division 1 on at the Dublin Horse Show on Friday August 10th, where the coveted Aga Khan trophy will be up for grabs. Victory on home soil could see Ireland finish on top of the Longines FEI Nations Cup league table in Europe Division 1.