Thirty-seven-year-old Corkman Shane Sweetnam, a member of Ireland’s Gold medal winning team at the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, last year, and pathfinder in Ireland’s quest to regain the Longines FEI Nations Cup of Ireland for the Aga Khan Trophy on Friday, has indicated that he sees Italy and Switzerland as the biggest dangers to a home success.
Speaking after his victory in the Stablelab Stakes with Indra Van De Oude Heihoef on Thursday, the USA-based Irish rider said both nations, especially the Swiss, have a good record at the Ballsbridge venue.
The Italians, who are drawn first to jump, and the Swiss, third to jump, are both competing for Nations Cup points in Dublin, as are Ireland, France, Britain and the Netherlands.
Sweetnam, with a Longines World Ranking of 37, will partner the 10-year-old chestnut gelding Main Road in this afternoon’s feature.
Mark McAuley, who was second to Sweetnam yesterday in the Stablelab Stakes, will ride the 10-year-old bay Utchan De Belheme.
Limerick rider Paul O’Shea, who is now based in Wellington, Florida, partners Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, winner of the Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Games Test Event in Tyron, North Carolina, last October. This combination jumped double clear rounds in the Nations Cups in the USA, Slovakia and Sweden this year.
Cameron Hanley from Claremorris, Co. Mayo, with Quirex, will be on Ireland’s anchor leg this afternoon.
The Irish team has already qualified for the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in October. Rodrigo Pessoa’s side currently lies third on the 2018 European Division 1 Nations Cup League table, with the possibility of finishing top of the table if they win today at the RDS.