Ireland takes home the Nations Cup at Hickstead

20 07 2012

Ireland held on to an early lead to win the FEI Nations Cup Hickstead leg after their joint first round tying teams France and Germany faltered in the final stages.

All three countries had the luxury of starting the second round with zero scores, with France's fourth line rider, Penelope Leprevost decided not to jump Topinambour during the initial outings after all of her team mates had produced perfect scores.

Germany's Holger Wulschner with Cefalo had gained four faults at the first element of the second of three double combinations, but Marco Kutscher was able to erase this from the team sheet with a clear on Cornet Obolensky. Meanwhile, Ireland's Clem McMahon was able to retire in round one having had three down on Pacino.

In the first round, 13 had gone clear, so it looked as though a three-way jump-off was entirely possible. However, clears were not so prevalent in round two.

Ireland's Shane Breen, who lives at Hickstead with his wife Chloe and children Darcy and Daisy, was "shocked" at his two faults during his second outing on Cos I Can. "I actually thought he was giving me a much better ride," said Shane. "But I think he almost got a bit too confident."

With Germany's Philipp Weishaupt with Catoki collecting just four faults and France's Eugenie Angot with Old Chap Tame recording a double clear, the pressure was on Ireland to pull something special out of the bag. That something special came in the form of second line rider Richie Moloney and Equinimity LLC's Ahorn van de Zuuthoeve. Both him and his horse were riding in their first ever top-level Nations Cup, and just their fourth ever Nations Cup. But despite the huge pressure on him the 30-year-old, who is based in Wellington, Florida, during the winter and New York in the summer, produce the only other double clear of the competition, putting Ireland very much back in the frame.

Things started to fall apart for Germany when Holger fell foul of double combinations and finished with 12. Neither Ludger Beerbaum with Chiara nor Marco could help improve the situation with both toppling late fences.

Ireland took pole position when Darragh Kerrins' four faults on Lisona were bettered with a superb comeback from Clem, who jumped clear.

So it all came down to the last rider to try and force a possible jump-off for France after Aymeric de Ponnat (Armitages Boy) had taken down the first part of a double at three. That rider was Penelope Leprevost, whose horse was fresh having not jumped in the initial stages. However, as she took down the same fence as her team-mate, the Irish supporters cheered as they claimed victory with France taking second. "I am sure they were cheering because they'd all back us to win!" said Shane.

The victory gives some relief to Ireland's Robert Splaine, whose team has now risen one place from bottom of the league. "We really need a good result in Dublin," he said. "We need to fight against relegation."

Germany's third place means they have now secured the league win for the second consecutive year, with only Dublin left to go after the Olympic games, their score cannot be bettered. France now sits in seventh, with Great Britain, who finished fourth here, moving up two places to fourth.

Britain has suffered the loss of many events this year due to persistent rain during the summer months, so it is testament to the work done at Hickstead by the Bunn family in 2010 to improve the drainage in the international arena. Despite torrential rain over the weeks leading up to the show, riders commented positively on the going.

"It was absolutely excellent," said Clem McMahon. "Pretty much any other show would have had to cancel. I'd say this showground is now in the top three in the world."