Irish back to best in Nations Cup thriller

The Irish team secured a much-needed victory at the penultimate leg of the FEI Nations Cup 2012 series at Hickstead yesterday.  Pictured on the podium: (L-R) Richie Moloney, Darragh Kerins, Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine, Clem McMahon and Shane Breen.
The Irish team secured a much-needed victory at the penultimate leg of the FEI Nations Cup 2012 series at Hickstead yesterday. Pictured on the podium: (L-R) Richie Moloney, Darragh Kerins, Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine, Clem McMahon and Shane Breen. © Julian Portch

Ireland scored a surprise victory in the FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain at Hickstead yesterday, making it their first win this season and their first at Hickstead since 2001.

The Robert Splaine-led team of Shane Breen (Cos I Can), Richie Moloney (Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve), Darragh Kerins (Lisona) and Clem McMahon (Pacino) finished on just four faults, beating France in a thrilling competition that went down to the final round.

The Hickstead fences took their toll, but faults were spread all around the track set by Great Britain’s Bob Ellis – the man who will build the courses for the forthcoming London Olympic Games at Greenwich Park.

As always the contest ebbed and flowed, with Germany, Ireland and France tied for the lead after the first round of competition. As the event progressed, France assumed control as the final riders went out for the second time.

US-based Kilkenny native Moloney spearheaded the Irish attack with a double clear on Ahorn van de Zuithoeve in their first ever Superleague competition, but clear rounds also came from Kerins on the Irish Sport Horse Lisona, and  Breen on the team’s other Irish Sport Horse, Cos I Can.

McMahon caused Irish hopes to drop when he retired in the first round with the eight year-old Pacino, but then stormed back as the team’s final rider in the second round with a winning zero score.

But with Ireland and Germany still capable of winning, the competition was wide open. Germany needed to go clear to put the pressure on the other two, but they faltered. However, Ireland threw down the gauntlet to the French, with Clem McMahon, who retired in the first round, jumping clear to put the pressure on Penelope Leprevost.

The Irish were guaranteed a jump off, even if Leprevost went clear, and the pressure was heaped on France. However, Leprevost had an early fence down so she retired, with France relegated to second with eight faults, while favourites Germany finished third on 12. The host nation lined up fourth when collecting a total of 20 faults, and Sweden and Belgium shared fifth with 24 apiece.  A first-round total of 20 put paid to Dutch chances and they concluded the day with 28 faults on the board for second-last spot ahead of the Swiss, whose 40-fault result left them last by a long margin.

“It means a lot,” said Robert Splaine, Ireland’s Chef d’equipe. “We’ve had a tough season so far, so we needed the result and we got it. I’m always optimistic when we go to a show, because I have a fantastic team of riders who are all top class. We’ve had a bit of misfortune this year so the win was much deserved.

“We needed a big result here today, and we certainly got one. It’s a great boost also to win in England, with the traditional rivalry that exists, and it also balances out the bits of misfortune we encountered earlier in the series.

“I’m very grateful to all the owners, and especially the ones who let their horses cross the Atlantic for this,” Splaine said.

“I have to say that this result today proves that we’re as good as anyone in the world, and now is the time to get behind the two riders we’re sending to the London Olympics, where I’m sure they will do the business and bring further prestige to Ireland.”

Team-member Moloney, whose sensational double-clear on his Top League Nations Cup debut comes after finishing third with the same horse in the Grand Prix during Nations Cup week in Florida earlier this year and fifth in the recent Spruce Meadows Grand Prix in Calgary, Canada, was, like Kerins, selected for this event from the deep pool of Irish riding talent resident in the USA.

“This is my biggest result so far,” said the rider whose father, Tom, is a legendary Irish horse producer and whose brother, Eddie, is a former Irish national champion.  Moloney’s horse was not a complete newcomer to the Hickstead ring, as Ahorn originally came from England’s Henry Charles who lives close by – “he had been in the ring before as a novice horse, and he was quite happy about seeing it all again, it didn’t bother him at all,” said the rider who shares his time between US bases in Florida and Long Island, New York.

Shane Breen’s wife, Chloe, is the daughter of the late “Master of Hickstead”, Douglas Bunn, and Shane lives with his family at the Sussex venue.

Despite the satisfaction of securing only their third victory in the 65-year history of the Nations Cup of Great Britain, the Irish  have only slightly improved their position on the FEI Nations Cup leaderboard after yesterday’s success.  They go into the last leg on their home ground with just a 0.5 point lead over Belgium who are now in bottom spot, while Germany remains at the top of the table with a 10-point advantage over France in second while Britain holds third.

• Earlier in the day there was a exciting renewal of the Bunn Leisure International Stakes, with France’s Eugenie Angot and Davendy S winning an enthrallingly-close class.

Drawn early in the class, Angot then had to watch through her fingers as a series of riders went close to her time. A quicker time was possible, as several proved, but none managed to stay clear, picking up at least four seconds in penalties.

Joe Clayton (Antello Z) finished second, with 66.86, with Philipp Weishaupt (China Blue 4) third in 67.23. Five riders finished within a second of Angot, but she held on to win.

“She’s a brilliant horse, naturally quick and I didn’t do anything too risky. I think she’s very good, I think I’ll be back here next year for the Nations Cup on her, so it was nice to win a class like this,” she said.

• Numerous showing classes reached their conclusion at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, the official horse show of the British Horse Society. Katie Bacon won the BSPS Heritage Mountain and Moorland Supreme Ridden Championship with the Connemara pony Galloon Rollover. The Leeman Family Supreme Working Hunter title went to Louise Bell and Into The Blue, a horse formerly ridden and bred by top showjumper John Whitaker.


Nations Cup Result:
1.  Ireland 4 faults: Cos I Can (Shane Breen) 0/4, Ahorn van de Zuuthoeve (Richie Moloney) 0/0, Lisona (Darragh Kerins) 0/4, Pacino (C McMahon) Ret/0.

2.  France 8 faults: Old Chap Tame (Eugenie Angot) 0/0, Reveue de Hurtebise (Kevin Staut) 0/4, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 0/4, Topinambour (Penelope Leprevost) DNS/Ret.

3.  Germany 12 faults: Catoki (Philipp Weishaupt) 0/4, Cefalo (Holger Wulschner) 4/12, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) 0/4, Cornet Obolensky (Marco Kutscher) 0/4.

4.  Great Britain 20 faults: Billy Angelo (William Funnell) 4/4, Murkas Nevada (Peter Charles) 4/4, Hello Sailor (Tina Fletcher) 0/4, Argento (John Whitaker) 8/4.

5.  Sweden 24 faults:  Udermus (Douglas Lindelow) 4/0, Carrento Ztar (Angelie Von Essen) 4/8, Glory Days (Daniel Zetterman) 8/0, Chamonix H (Helena Persson) 8/8.

5.  Belgium 24 faults: Conisha van de Helle (Niels Bruynseels) 8/0, Dylano (Maurice Van Roosbroeck) 16/4, Quarco De Kerambars (Rik Remeryck) 0/8, Cor van de Wateringhoeve (Dominique Hendrickx) 8/4.
7.  Netherlands 28 faults: Tyson (Leon Thijssen) 8/4, Sam (Albert Zoer) 12/4, Cerona HS (Hendrik-Jan Schuttert) 16/0, Tobalio (Albert Voorn) 0/8.

8.  Switzerland 40 faults: Touchable (Claudia Gisler 12/8, Clipmyhorse Cash and Go (Simone Wettstein) 0/13, Tamira (Marc Oertly) 4/4, Loxy de la Reselle (Andreas Ott) 24/12.

FEI Nations Cup 2012 – Standings after Round 7 at Hickstead (GBR):
1.    Germany            –     47
2.    France            –    37
3.    Great Britain        –    32
4.    Sweden            –    31.5
4.    Switzerland        –    31.5
6.    Netherlands        –    29.5
7.    Ireland            –    29
8.    Belgium            –    28.5

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