Mexico won the Longines FEI Nations Cup of Ireland for the Aga Khan Trophy at the 2018 Stena Line Dublin Horse Show this evening, with Ireland finishing joint second alongside Italy and France.
Mexico, who last competed at the RDS in 1981, had an opening round total of 8 faults, the same score as the USA and France. They sat just one fence behind the pacesetters Italy, who produced two clears in the opening round, and Ireland, who had clears from Shane Sweetnam, Mark McAuley and Cameron Hanley, with Limerick’s Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Pichu having a single rail down.
France ended the first round on eight faults, the fancied Swiss side on 16, level with 26-time winners of the Aga Khan Trophy, Britain, and the Netherlands brought up the rear on 24 faults.
Luck certainly seemed to desert Rodrigo Pessoa’s side in the second round as Sweetnam and Main Road opened with four faults before Mark McAuley’s Utchan De Belheme uncharacteristically refused, first at the sixth, then at the ninth, and was thus eliminated, meaning all other three Irish scores would count in the round.
While the Italians opened the second round with a clear from Luca Marziani, followed by eight faults from Bruno Chimirri, the Mexicans had four faults and a clear with their first and second line riders, Eugenio Garza Perez and Federico Fernandez.
France was also starting to sneak back into contention through a four-faulter from their top rider Kevin Staut and a clear round from Alexandra Francart.
By this stage, it looked as though Mexico, Italy, France and Ireland had the competition between them.
With the second last riders to go for the teams at the top of the leaderboard, both France and Mexico produced clears while four faults from Italy and Ireland’s Paul O’Shea meant the pendulum was swinging away a little from the opening round leaders.
As the last line of riders took to the Main Arena, the winners were still in doubt, and the possibility of a jump-off was high. Disaster struck for France’s Mathiue Billot on Quel Folou as the 12-year-old gelding crashed through the second part of the Longines triple combination before knocking the first part at their second attempt to clear, leaving the combination with eight jumping faults and seven time faults. The Philippe Guerdat-managed side was left on a total of 12 faults.
Enrique Gonzalez and Chacna went clear for the Mexicans, meaning they were on a worst possible score of 8 faults. Italy and Ireland would have to produce clears to force a jump-off, or else the Mexicans would claim their first ever Aga Khan Trophy victory.
When Lorenzo de Luca and Irenice Horta knocked the Longines planks, the most knocked fence of the competition, it was down to Cameron Hanley and Quirex. When the middle fence of the triple combination fell to groans of disappointment from the bumper RDS Main Arena crowd, Stanny Paesschen’s Mexico side had claimed a famous victory, as Ireland, Italy and France ended joint second on 12 faults.
Of the other competing teams, the USA, the reigning Aga Khan Trophy holders, saw Jamie Barge’s horse Luebbo eliminated in both rounds as the 13-year-old would not jump the Stena Line Water, the fourth jump on the Nations Cup course. Despite a double clear from American veteran Laura Kraut on Zeremonie, the Americans finished their defence on 16 faults.
Britain’s 16 faults in round 1 increased by 5 more in the final round for a two-round total of 21 faults.
The Netherlands added eight faults in the second round to their 24 in the opener for a final score of 32 faults.
Switzerland, who had a difficult opening round of 16 faults, had only three competitors for the second as pathfinder Werner Muff opted not to jump Jazoe Van ‘T Steenpaal. With only one clear round in the competition for the Swiss, they ended their day on 34 faults.