Blake names squad ahead of Irish Nations Cup

  • 2 August 2023, 20:05

2022 Aga Khan winners Ireland (l-r) Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam, Michael Blake, Conor Swail and Max Wachman Photo: Sonya Hennessy

Squad announced for Dublin Horse Show Longines FEI Nations Cup next week

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) Show Jumping High Performance Director Michael Blake has named his squad in a bid to defend their title as reigning Aga Khan Trophy champions.

The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping team have enjoyed a successful season to date, including a second-place finish in last week’s five-star Nations Cup in Hickstead, wins in Rome and Langley earlier in the year, along with numerous podium finishes.

Blake is looking forward to the challenge ahead with the Dublin Horse Show starting on Wednesday 9th of August and the Nations Cup taking place on Friday 11th of August in the prestigious Ballsbridge venue.

Speaking to HSI in advance of the show he said: “We have had a very good year so far and we are really looking forward to next week.

“We bring forward a very strong squad, who have displayed excellent Nations Cup form this year. There are some strong teams for this year’s renewal of the Aga Khan Trophy, but I am confident that we have an equally strong team. We have the added advantage of the amazing support from the home fans.

“Thanks to Horse Sport Ireland, Sport Ireland, our owners, the wider supports networks and our generous sponsors that help make this happen. We are really looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd.”

The squad in alphabetical order is:

  • Daniel Coyle riding Legacy, owned by Ariel Grange and Daniel Coyle.
  • Michael P Duffy riding Cinca 3, owned by Hibernian Sport Horses Ltd.
  • Cian O’Connor riding Eve D’ouilly, owned by Nicole Walker.
  • Michael Pender riding HHS Calais, owned by Bravo Hughes Ltd.
  • Shane Sweetnam riding James Kann Cruz, owned by Gizmo Partners LLC.

The home leg of the Nations Cup is always a special occasion. With just over a week to go, there is a palpable excitement among the riders.

O’Connor is no stranger to Aga Khan Trophy success, having been part of the winning team last year and also in 2015, 2012 and 2004. He said: “It’s always an honour to be a part of the Irish team but there is something extra special about lining out in Dublin.

“For me being based in Ireland at Karlswood means that the Dublin Horse Show is a great opportunity to show our wonderful horses to the home crowd.

“I’m delighted this year to have a very special nine-year-old mare to ride in Eve D’Ouilly who’s owned by my student and friend Nicole Walker. The mare has had a very nice build up this summer and feels in fantastic shape. Hopefully we will be peaking on Friday afternoon!”

Duffy is making his Aga Khan debut having been part of the Irish Nations Cup teams in Rotterdam and Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Speaking to HSI he said:

“I’m delighted to selected on the Irish team for the Aga Khan cup next week with Hibernian Horses’ Cinca 3.

“She’s having a fantastic season so far with multiple podium finishes at 5* Grand Prix level and Nations Cups for Ireland this year. Looking forward to continuing this form next week in front of the home crowd.”

Also making his Aga Khan debut is Pender. “I’m thrilled to be part of the Aga Khan team next week – it’s a lifelong dream of every Irish rider. I’m very grateful to the people who have helped along this journey and most of all HHS Calais, who has been an incredible horse for me.

“He’s heading into next week in good form, following a clear in the 3* Grand Prix of Dinard last Sunday. We have a very strong team and fingers crossed we will get it done.”

This will be Pender’s third Nations Cup this year, having successfully jumped in Sopot and Rome.

Coyle has enjoyed a very successful season to date, including Nations Cup appearances in Hickstead, Rotterdam and Langley.

“It’s always a privilege to represent your nation in front of a home crowd and I’m really looking forward to the roars of the crowd in the RDS as Team Ireland head into the main arena.

“Our team came second at Hickstead last week and we are determined to win the coveted Aga Khan Trophy. My horses in particular are on strong form right now so wish us all luck,” said Coyle.

Part of last year’s winning team, Sweetnam is also looking forward to jumping on home soil again.

“We’ve had a good season so far this year and we are really looking forward to Dublin and giving our best effort for the team. James Kann Cruz is in great shape. Last weekend he jumped great in Dinard, France.”



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).