Team Ireland posted a convincing victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada at Langley, with Canada in second place.
In a five-country challenge, Ireland established their authority when holding the lead with just two faults on the scoreboard at the halfway stage, and then they wrapped it up in round two without having to call on anchorman Conor Swail for a second time.
Their final total of 12 faults didn’t truly reflect their supremacy which could have been even greater if Swail had returned to the ring. But they still finished six faults ahead of their Canadian hosts in runner-up spot while Team Mexico rallied brilliantly to line up third on 25 faults. USA had to settle for fourth when racking up a 34-fault total but that was still good enough to see them qualify, along with Canada, for the series Final in Barcelona (ESP) as the top two finishers in the North/Central America and Caribbean League qualifying series.
Brazil filled fifth and last place, but started with only a three-man side so had no drop-score, yet in keeping with the pattern of this fascinating competition the team showed a dramatic improvement second time out to finish on a total of 40.
Asked about the recipe for the Irish team’s recent successes, Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake said it is about putting a new strategy in place in order to expand the pool of horses and riders.
“Like a lot of countries we had started to rely on the old guard too much. When I got the job I decided the best thing we could do was develop as many riders as we could and give them Nations Cup experience. So last year 29 riders jumped on 20 different teams and we had 17 podium finishes out of 20. Obviously winning the European Championship was a big thing for us. This year, as of today, 25 riders have jumped on a Nations Cup team – we also had a win in Lisbon this weekend and for us to have two winning teams in the same weekend, that showed some depth,” said Michael Blake, Team Ireland’s chef d’equipe.
The Canadians always looked Barcelona-bound after winning the first two league qualifiers in Ocala (USA) and Coapexpan (MEX), but they couldn’t make it a hat-trick today when, despite a brilliant double-clear from pathfinders Tiffany Foster and Victor, they lost their second-line partnership. Keean White’s 13-year-old For Freedom Z took a severe dislike to the water-tray under the oxer at fence six and was eliminated.
Water was a recurring theme all afternoon as the rain poured down on the Thunderbird show arena while American anchorman, Richard Spooner, gave a master-class in horsemanship at the open water obstacle. His 11-year-old Chatinus needed some serious encouragement just to splash through it first time out, but actually managed to clear it at his second attempt much to the delight of the crowd.
Daniel Coyle’s (23) uncharacteristic 13-fault result with Cita was Ireland’s only weak point in the first round. Richie Moloney (36) opened the competition with a foot-perfect run from the 15-year-old Carrabis Z, so when both former Irish armyman Brian Cournane with Dino and Swail with Rubens LS la Silla collected just a single time fault each then the team was well out in front going into round two. A second clear from Moloney meant that even adding the nine collected by Cournane and a single time fault from Coyle at his second attempt, the win was in the bag without Swail’s assistance.
Chef d’equipe Blake said he was particularly pleased with today’s victory. “We targeted this event a year ago and put the team together early. All four riders managed to go one-time clear and Richie was brilliant – I’m so proud of him, he rode out of his skin. Daniel’s first round didn’t go to plan but he came back and did a great job, making a success out of potential disaster. That’s what Nations Cups are all about,” he said.
Full results here.