• 26 May 2023, 18:49

The Irish team celebrates in Rome. From the left: Vito Cozzoli (President and AD Sport e Salute), Marco Di Paola (President FISE), Michael Blake (Chef d’Equipe Irlande), Andrea Abodi (Minister for Sport and Youth), Roberto Gabrielli (Lazio and Abruzzo Regional Director Intesa Sanpaolo) – Ph. Sport e Salute / Simone Ferraro

Michael Blake’s team win Italian Nations Cup for first time in almost 100 years

The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping team won a thrilling FEI Rolex Piazza Di Siena CSIO5* Nations Cup for the first time in almost 100 years in Rome on Friday.

Ireland thwarted host nation Italy, who had led for most of the afternoon, following a jump-off, with Mikey Pender and the Irish Sport Horse HHS Calais the heroes.

Kildare’s Pender and HHS Calais, owned by Bravo Hughes Ltd., were first to go in the tie-break eliminator round, with the aim of jumping clear in the quickest time.

They did just that in a lightning-quick 33.91 seconds, piling the pressure on the Italian combination of Francesca Ciriesi and Cape Coral.

That pressure proved too much for the home pairing, who knocked a pole early in their round to hand the Cup to Ireland.

It is the first time an Irish team has won an Italian Nations Cup and team manager Blake couldn’t hide his delight at the history-makers.

He said: “That was some performance, from the whole team, and just stunning from Mikey Pender. To jump double clear and then come out and put up that time in the jump-off was just exceptional.

“But the whole lot of them – Jack Ryan had a disappointing first round before coming out second time around to only have one pole down, that showed real character.

“Then Denis Lynch and Michael G Duffy were both foot-perfect in their rounds before Mikey did the business – I asked them at the halfway point to do exactly that and they delivered. It’s an incredible achievement!”

Ireland lay in joint-fifth place of the ten nations competing at the halfway point – four faults behind Italy, France and Sweden before the comeback after the break.

The team were perfect in their second round and no more faults were added to the tally, with only Italy matching Ireland’s score of eight before Pender prevailed in the jump-off.

The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping team who won the FEI Rolex Piazza Di Siena CSIO5* Nations Cup was;

  1. Mikey Pender, riding the HHS Calais (ISH), owned by Bravo Hughes Ltd.
  2. Jack Ryan riding BBS McGregor (ISH), owned by Marguerite Ryan.
  3. Michael G Duffy riding Clitschko 17, owned by Carl Hanley Sporthorses Gmbh.
  4. Denis Lynch riding Vistogrand, owned by Denis Lynch.

Picture caption: Mikey Pender and HHS Calais jumping to victory in the five-star FEI Nations Cup in Rome

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).

BBS McGregor (ISH) – 2012 gelding by Cardento (HOLST) out of Random Chance (ISH) by Mark Twain (TB). Breeder and Owner: Marguerite Ryan, Co. Kilkenny. Rider: Jack Ryan (IRL).

The Irish Show Jumping team is sponsored by The Underwriting Exchange

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