Ireland rode to victory in the $150,00 Nations Cup CSIO4* at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), with the final round under the lights on a course that caused challenges for some. It was the fourth Nations Cup triumph for Ireland – led by chef d’equipe, Michael Blake – in the 21-year history of the class at WEF.
After round one Ireland was tied with Canada on zero faults following clear rounds from Eoin McMahon and Chakra 9, Max Wachman and Berlux Z and Andrew Bourns on Sea Topblue.
Tied for second with one rail down were Australia, Mexico and Great Britain – after a picturesque clear from Jessica Mendoza and Play, and a textbook round from Ben Maher and Faltic B, who made it look easy.
There were 16 clear trips in the first round over the course designed by Nick Granat (USA) and Steve Stephens (USA). Pathfinder Eoin and Chakra 9 had just one time fault in round two. “She jumped fantastic in the first round, and she jumped great in the second round as well,” said Eoin. “I was a bit too slow; that was a rider error. I was very happy that it didn’t cost us tonight. It’s always a real privilege to be able to jump for Ireland. I’m very grateful for Michael selecting me.”
Max, 18, felt similarly grateful to be a part of Team Ireland, and he gave a noteworthy double-clear performance, one of only five in the class. “I’m delighted, and it’s a great feeling to win,” he said
Riding in the third spot for the Irish team, Andrew and Seatop Blue were coming off a strong WEF circuit, having won the CSI4* grand prix during week three. They recorded just an unlucky four faults in round two.
“I was very happy with him tonight,” said Andrew. “This is his first Nations Cup. I was a little worried he might come out in the second round and think it was a jump-off. But, after the second or third fence, I realized that I was right on the money with him.”
Cian O’Connor was the anchor rider for Ireland with Cerruti Van Ter Hulst Z, Fence four – a lime green open-arched wall – proved to be a nemesis for them as it had for several other riders. “She took a serious dislike to the wall as soon as I turned the first time,” said Cian. ”I felt it, but she dug her heels in. But listen, that’s horses. We’ll regroup and school the wall probably and build her back up. She’ll be back to fight another day.”
Canada and the United States both had a total of 12 faults after two rounds. The teams’ cumulative times were the tiebreaker, with Canada taking home second place and the US finishing third. Great Britain was fourth on 16 faults, Mexico finished fifth with 20 faults, and Australia placed sixth on 29 faults. Argentina took seventh place with 30 faults, and Belgium was eighth with 32 faults.
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