The Rodrigo Pessoa-managed Irish Showjumping team have claimed a stunning victory in Sunday’s Longines FEI Nations Cup of Britain at Hickstead following a jump-off with the host nation.
Ireland were level with Britain at the halfway stage of the competition on eight faults each. 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. Richie Moloney jumped a clear with Freestyle De Muse, while Michael Duffy with EFS Top Contender and Anthony Condon on SFS Aristio both finished with one fence down each.
In the second round, Breen had another four fault score as did Moloney. Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire jumped clear with The Irish Sport Horse Luibanta BH to put pressure on the Irish team.
Duffy produced a vital clear which guaranteed his 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.
Britain chose Holly Smith to go against the clock with Hearts Destiny and the combination set an excellent target when clear in 43.39 seconds. Anthony Condon set off at a good pace with Aristio and they seemed slightly ahead midway through the round. The long-striding son of Arko made up huge ground on a daring gallop to the last, crossing the line clear in 41.29 seconds, giving Ireland their first Nations Cup win at Hickstead since 2012.
Waterford rider, Anthony Condon, spoke of his winning jump-off round, stating:
“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. He tried his heart out and was very quick to the last but he’s very careful so I could keep going.”
The home side, Britain, finished in second ahead of Brazil in third, with Sweden fourth, followed by Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands.
Winning team manager Rodrigo 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 the 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. 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.”
Today’s win sees Ireland up to third place on the league table and guarantees a place in the 2018 Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona.
The final Nations Cup of the season in Europe Division 1 is at the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS on Friday 10th August, with one of showjumping’s most famous and coveted prizes on offer, the Aga Khan Trophy. A win for Ireland in Ballsbridge next month could see Pessoa’s side finish top of the Longines FEI Nations Cup league table.
Meanwhile, Shane Breen won Saturday’s Bunn Leisure Speed Classic at the same venue, winning with Can Ya Makan.
The Tipperary rider finished 0.12 of a second ahead of British rider William Whitaker with Lammy Beach.
Breen and Can Ya Makan, third in last month’s Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead, won the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial.
“A speed class like this inspires him and keeps him keen,” said the winning rider. “I don’t use him as a speed horse as such – he jumps Derby’s, Grands Prix, teams – I love him because he’s so versatile. He’s a very good horse to have in the stable. Next year I think he’s got a great chance in the Al Shira’aa Derby and in the King George – he’s so useful.”
Breen was also best of the Irish in the earlier BHS Queen Elizabeth II Cup, taking sixth place with The Irish Sport Horse CSF Vendi Cruz. Another Irish Sport Horse, Glenavadra Brilliant, came out on top with Britain’s James Whitaker.