Blake delighted with Ireland’s FEI Nations Cup runner-up performance

  • 15 May 2023, 11:11

At the halfway point of Sunday’s 5* FEI Nations Cup in California, Michael Blake would have been forgiven for feeling less than enthused by Ireland’s performance.

Round one hadn’t exactly gone to plan and the Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping Team lay in third place on 16 faults – eight faults behind hosts United States and three behind Mexico in second.

At the break, however, whatever Team Manager Blake said to his team of Mark Kinsella, Andrew Bourns, David Blake and Conor Swail had the desired effect, with the boys in green rallying in round two.

Ireland never touched a pole following the interval to finish on a score of 17, just five faults behind what many felt was America’s strongest team and a very satisfactory outing for Blake and Ireland.

“I’m delighted with that,” Blake said. “I wasn’t too delighted after round one, but that was much more like it after the break and it showed me that we have some excellent young horses for the future.

Mark Kinsella and Quality H jumping the water at the FEI Nations Cup in San Juan, California. Picture: Sara Shier

“Mark gave Quality H a super ride in round one and we did feel that he was going to struggle second time around – it was a huge course in what is a small ring and the time was very tight – but it’s a five-star Nations Cup so it’s the top level.

“Andrew’s horse Sea Topblue has been around for a while now, so we know what to expect from him. He didn’t cover himself in glory in round one but he made up for it with a clear second round and it gave us that impetus to put the pressure on the Americans.

“David had put together an excellent first round with four faults and he was unlucky next time after jumping the water.

“Claude kind of just got the strides wrong and he needed six instead of five coming out of the water, but the clear with just the one time fault was excellent. He’s only 11 and it was his first five-star Nations Cup so he’ll hopefully be around for a long time to come.

Ireland Team Manager Michael Blake and the Irish team of Andrew Bourns, David Blake, Conor Swail and Mark Kinsella. Picture: Sara Shier

“We all know what Conor can do too and he was super on Nadal Hero & DB – it’s clear that Conor has another emerging star coming through. He really excelled – for a ten-year-old to put that performance in is very exciting and overall I’m delighted to finish second behind that American team.”

Next up for Irish teams in Nations Cup action is this Friday’s 3* Longines EEF heat in Peelbergen, Netherlands. Cian O’Connor will be in action with Tipperary, Max Wachman on board Kilkenny (ISH), Alexander Butler with Chilli B and Tom Wachman with Berlux Z. Commdt Geoff Curran will make up the team with the Irish Sport Horse Glengarra Wood.

The event is the sole regional qualifier which carries automatic progression to the semi-finals for the top five eligible nations. Also competing for a place will be Belgium, Spain, France, Great Britain and Portugal. They are competing alongside Sweden, Norway, Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands in what is sure to be an exciting afternoon of sport.


The Irish Show Jumping team is sponsored by The Underwriting Exchange

Charles Ancona – Official athlete clothing supplier to HSI’s Senior Olympic programmes