Saturday, Jun. 1, 2024

Irish Show Jumpers Storm To Victory In Aachen Nations Cup

The Irish team claimed the Mercedes-Benz Prize, the sixth leg of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup series in Aachen, Germany, on July 15 over the German and U.S. teams.

It was an exciting day of competition as five top teams were tied for the lead at the halfway stage. But it was the men in green who stood firm while their rivals crumbled in the closing stages.

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The Irish team claimed the Mercedes-Benz Prize, the sixth leg of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup series in Aachen, Germany, on July 15 over the German and U.S. teams.

It was an exciting day of competition as five top teams were tied for the lead at the halfway stage. But it was the men in green who stood firm while their rivals crumbled in the closing stages.

German chances were seriously hindered when Ludger Beerbaum and his young mare Gotha had an unfortunate first round. They collected 18 faults when Gotha frightened herself so much over the triple bar fence that Beerbaum had to pull her away from the following oxer before going on to lower the second part of the tricky double two fences later and picking up a lot of time faults.

The final result has shaken up the leaderboard of the series, but the French still hold the strong advantage they established with their hat trick of wins early in the season and a score of 43.5. The United States has moved up to second place (31.5) ahead of Ireland, Great Britain and Germany.

A Challenging Track

Frank Rothenberger’s 12-fence track did not disappoint. Riders come to Aachen knowing that nothing less than their best will do on this hallowed ground, and he demanded big, bold jumping from the horses and intelligent riding from their pilots. This was not a course for the faint-hearted.

Yet the two Irishmen who never touched a pole were both riding horses with little mileage at this level of the sport. With characteristic patience, 2002 World Champion Dermott Lennon has nurtured the talent of his 10-year-old gelding Hallmark Elite, and they showed their class in both rounds. Cian O’Connor’s new ride, K Club Lady, has only been in his yard since April, but she made the course designer’s questions seem very elementary indeed. This daughter of Landgraf was competing with an amateur rider in Spain until O’Connor spotted her a few months ago.

Irish pathfinder, Billy Twomey, collected just 4 faults on his first tour of the arena with Tinka’s Serenade—one of the many victims of the penultimate triple combination. This, the water at fence 9, and the triple-bar at fence 4 proved influential throughout the competition.

Irish anchorman Denis Lynch looked set for a clear until lowering the very last, and with 4 faults on the board the Irish shared the lead with the United States, France, Switzerland and Germany at the halfway point. The real battle was played out between these five nations as Round 2 got underway.

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The Clear Winners

The final result was produced with clinical efficiency however when Twomey, Lennon and O’Connor put zero scores on the board. Lynch didn’t even have to ride out a second time, so he can look forward to defending Sunday’s grand prix title with a fresh horse.

The all-girl U.S. team that won in Rotterdam last month were expected to prove difficult to beat, but only Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Tristan managed a clean sheet in the second round. Four-fault rounds from Lauren Hough on Quick Study, Candice King on Skara Glen’s Davos and Laura Kraut on Cedric brought their total to 12, which would only be good enough for third.

King said afterward, “I was thrilled. I had a great Rotterdam, so that helped me feel a lot more confident coming into Aachen. It’s been a lifetime dream to come here to Aachen, and I’m finally here at 40 years old! With a young horse, I was just really pleased. It felt like he jumped great. I was just a little unlucky; I didn’t quite get to that one vertical in the second round. I was close to having a double clear. I’m very happy.”

Shahinian-Simpson, Thousand Oaks, Calif., was also competing for the first time in the Nations Cup in Aachen. She and Tristan, a 10-year-old Dutch gelding by Lancelot, had just one rail down in the tricky triple combination coming home.

“I think that our horses and riders jumped very well. A little bit of luck sometimes goes into it,” said Shahinian-Simpson. “We had two seasoned horses and two up-and-coming horses on the team. It’s very much an honor to be here for the team for the first time at Aachen.”

Anchor rider Kraut, Wellington, Fla., had an unfortunate fault at the open water to finish on 4 faults with Cedric, a 12-year-old Dutch gelding by Chamberlain.

“It was a great night of show jumping,” said Hough, Wellington, Fla. “I think in general we’re pretty pleased with our third place result. We had a couple of unlucky four-fault rounds. I was pleased with my horse. I thought he jumped very well.”

A Great Thrill

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“I’m absolutely delighted!” said Irish Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine after the big win. “It’s a great thrill to be chef of the winning team, and I’d like to thank my riders very sincerely; they did a great job today.”  

Lennon thanked Splaine “for having enough faith to put me back on the team—I have not gone so well in the last few weeks, but I knew my horse was coming good.”

O’Connor said the track was one of the biggest in the Meydan series this year. “Some of the oxers were unbelievably wide, and you needed to get up a rhythm so the horses could jump really well,” he added.

“We are very proud to win,” said Lynch. “The goal for the week was to be in the top three, so to win is a huge bonus.”

“We’ve been knocking on the door all year—it’s great to get a win under our belts, and now hopefully we can push on from here,” said Twomey.

As so often happens in this Meydan FEI Nations Cup series however, it was U.S. Chef d’Equipe George Morris who had the last word.

“I’d like to congratulate the Irish,” he said. It was no surprise they won today—the Irish by nature and by blood are the greatest horse people in the world. They are very well mounted, and it’s always very frightening when they are well mounted. Robert Splaine does a super job, so it was not an unexpected victory.”

Although he couldn’t stop himself from adding, “I’m very proud of my girls.”

Facts and Figures:

  • There were three double-clear rounds—from Ireland’s Dermott Lennon (Hallmark Elite), Cian O’Connor (K Club Lady) and Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago) from France.
  • The two teams that failed to qualify for the second round were Poland and Spain.
The Spanish team was reduced to a three-strong side due to the late withdrawal of Julio Aria and Victory V. Hazelanenhoekj.
  • This was Ireland’s fifth nations cup victory in Aachen.
The Irish previously won in 1937, 1979, 1995 and 2003.
  • A massive total of 42,500 spectators watched the competition unfold in the world-famous Soers arena tonight.

 

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