Blake confident ahead of Aga Khan Trophy tilt

  • 10 August 2023, 13:59

From left, Daniel Coyle, Cian O’Connor, Michael Pender, Michael Duffy, Shane Sweetnam and Horse Sport Ireland Showjumping High Performance director Michael Blake at the RDS in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Ireland drawn fifth of eight for FEI Longines Nations Cup of Dublin

Michael Blake has named The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping team ahead of tomorrow’s five-star Longines FEI Nations Cup.

Blake has named a strong foursome, who will jump fifth of the eight competing nations, as Ireland bid to recreate the magic of last year’s Aga Khan Trophy victory at the Dublin Horse Show.

The Irish team is, in jumping order, as follows;

  1. Michael Duffy riding Cinca 3, owned by Hibernian Horses Ltd.
  2. Michael Pender riding HHS Calais (ISH), owned by Bravo Hughes Ltd.
  3. Cian O’Connor riding Eve D’Ouilly, owned by Nicole Walker.
  4. Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz (ISH), owned by Gizmo Partners LLC.

Daniel Coyle is the reserve rider for Ireland.

Speaking at the team draw, Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) Show Jumping High Performance Director Blake said: “I’m very confident, I have named a strong team – but there are very strong teams here.

“Michel Duffy has been on three Nations Cup teams this season with Cinca 3 and jumped five clear rounds out of six. So we will start off with him as our first rider in.

“Michael Pender has jumped in two Nations Cup and was outstanding in Rome with HHS Calais.

“We are going to put Cian in in third, which some might find unusual. He’s on a new horse to him, who is less experienced, so he can go in and jump his own round without as much pressure.

Horse Sport Ireland Showjumping High Performance director Michael Blake, third from left, and Aga Khan riders, from left, Daniel Coyle, Shane Sweetnam, Michael Pender, Michael Duffy and Cian O’Connor at the RDS in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

“Shane is on one of the best horses in the world right now, so we’re going to let him carry the weight of the world and put him in last.

When asked about having two riders making their Aga Khan Trophy debut, Blake joked that both Pender and Duffy have been jumping on the hallowed turf of the main arena since they were 10 years old.

“These lads began all those years ago when jumping in the 12.2hh on the Friday evening here. All we are doing is switching them from the Friday evening to the Friday afternoon!” Blake quipped.

Switching back to business, however, he added: “Seriously though, Michael Pender is in there because he aced it for us in Rome and as I have said Michael Duffy has jumped five clear rounds of six this season in Nations Cups.”

Eight nations will be lining out hoping to win the prestigious golden trophy and the jumping order of the teams is as follows:

  1. Mexico
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Spain
  4. Great Britain
  5. Ireland
  6. Belgium
  7. France
  8. Switzerland

The stage is set and course designer Alan Wade is looking forward to bringing top show jumping action to home soil once again. He began by joking: “I’m sure the winners will be happy and the losers will have someone to blame.

“The ground conditions are perfect although I personally would like some rain overnight, it just tightens the top.

“I felt horses were jumping a nice track yesterday in the five-star classes – it looked very easy for them. It will be a bit more of a step up today with the jump-off class and I won’t make any final decisions on the course for tomorrow until I add those extra difficulties today to see how they jump.

“Aga Khan Friday is the most important day in show jumping in Ireland – our teams can do well all over the world but they have to perform on Friday in Dublin.”

Speaking about what type of course to expect tomorrow, Wade added: “The track will be up to dimensions and will be fair to everybody. I hope we have good sport and that the horses are happy and healthy afterwards. I always bear in mind in a Nations Cup that the horses have two rounds to jump.”


HHS Calais (ISH) – 2011 gelding by Cavalier Royale (HOLST) out of MHS OBOS Cruise (ISH) by OBOS Quality (OLD). Breeder: Ita Brennan, Co. Kilkenny. Owner: Bravo Hughes Ltd. Rider: Michael Pender (IRL).

James Kann Cruz (ISH) – 2013 gelding by Kannan (KWPN) out of CSF Telly Cruz (ISH) by Cruising (ISH). Breeder: Patrick Connolly. Owner: Gizmo Partners LLC. Rider: Shane Sweetnam (IRL).