Perfect tonic for Irish ahead of Aga Khan

Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Indra van de Oude Heihoef on their way to winning the Stablelab Stakes at the Dublin Horse Show yesterday. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Mike Dunne

Rodrigo Pessoa must have been inspired when picking the Irish riders for today’s Aga Khan nations cup competition as they claimed the top three places in yesterday’s Stablelab Stakes at the Stena Line Dublin Horse and almost nabbed the fourth spot as well.

Shane Sweetnam, who will lead the Irish challenge today, claimed the top prize of €16,500 on Indra van de Oude Heihoef having been first into the deciding round and nipping home clear in 39.21, a performance that the other ten combinations who progressed couldn’t match.

Mark McAuley came closest on Jasco vd Bisschop just over half of a second behind, squeezing Cameron Hanley (Eis Isuara) out of second place by 0.15 of a second. Astonishingly, the fourth member of the nations cup team, Paul O’Shea, could have made it a top-four coup but for a late fence down with Skara Glen’s Presence.

The Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge Speed Derby earlier yesterday also went the way of the Irish with Shane Breen taking a decisive win on Can Ya Makan, knocking three seconds off the time of British leader Holly Smith on her Irish mount Quality Old Joker.

A late dash by Dermott Lennon on Vampire was good enough for second place, leaving Smith with third for her efforts.

Shane Sweetnam (Cyklon) and Greg Broderick (Charmeur) added to the Irish takings in fourth and fifth respectively.

Today’s Aga Khan, which is sponsored by Longines to the tune of €250,000, will see Ireland do battle with Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Mexico and holders USA. Sweetnam will switch to Main Road, with McAuley on Utchan De Belheme, Hanley on Quirex and O’Shea on Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu.

Ireland have been favourably drawn as last of the eight teams into action. “We’ve got a good draw but it’s another day’s work,” Ireland’s show jumping high performance chairman Gerry Mullins told the Irish Examiner after yesterday’s good performances by the team riders.

Everybody’s very confident because we’ve had a good run over the last while and all these guys have been successful so we’re going in with our heads up.

For the European teams this is the last of this year’s Europe Division 1 league fixtures. Ireland have already done enough to claim a place at the Nations Cup World Final in October. The British, French and Italians have yet to book their tickets and this is their last chance.

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