The absence of an Irish team from the Piazza di Siena arena this weekend is in some way due to the fact that this annual fixture exited the nations cup league series after Longines took over as league sponsors from the start of this season, the Italians feeling they would not be able to fulfill their ideals for their home event under the stipulations of the new backers.
They have, however, come up trumps with sponsorship of the now standalone Rome nations cup contest, which boasts a prize fund of €250,000, — that’s 25% more than is on offer for the league fixtures under the Longines deal, though of course Longines are paying out at multiple venues. What’s more, the Grand Prix in Rome will be sponsored by rival horologists Rolex, who have put €350,000 on the table.
It will be left to Allen and Duffy to get the Irish flag hoisted over the weekend, ideally with a share of that Rolex purse.
Last year, when this was a nations cup league fixture, Ireland finished joint third, a creditable effort with a depleted squad, while in the Grand Prix, Mark McAuley just missed the podium when coming fourth on Miebello.
The nations cup series is now devoid of both Rome and, for some years now, Aachen in Germany, arguably the most prestigious of all venues in the equestrian calendar, with its almost championship appeal across show jumping, dressage, eventing, carriage driving, and vaulting — indeed it bills itself as a world equestrian festival.
While not contesting the Rome event, Ireland will compete at Aachen (July) in between the country’s league outings in Sweden and Britain, manager Rodrigo Pessoa describing it as “good for morale” and being the probable point in the season when he’ll have to make the call as to which combinations he favours for the World Championships in September.
Sunday’s French nations cup saw Ireland end up in sixth place. It was a bad day for the hosts who never fired and finished seventh. It was the second of Ireland’s five league fixtures and it made the second-place finish in the first outing in Samorin all the more valuable as Ireland managed to stay second in the overall league table, though several countries have a round ‘in-hand’ over Pessoa’s team.
Tattersalls International Horse Trials, Ireland’s first eventing international of the year, is just over a week away (Ballindenisk was to have been the first but was rained off) and in the meantime a somewhat experimental team is heading to the UK this week for the Houghton Hall meeting which includes a British round of the FEI eventing nations cup.
Rodney Powell will take charge of the team which features Declan Cullen (Seavaghan Ash), Michelle Kenny (RLE Aspe), international team debutant Aidan Keogh (Pride of Tredstep), and Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue), with Jim Newsam (Magennis) as reserve.
Ireland’s eventing high performance director Sally Corscadden said that the decision to take in the British fixture was part of the development plan to compete at more team events.
We are aiming to have teams at more nations cup competitions so we are pleased to have a selection of experienced and new horse and rider combinations as part of the team for Houghton Hall,” she said.
The Irish are one of six teams contesting the event with the opposition comprising Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Sweden, and USA.
In Wicklow on Sunday, Cathal Daniels had almost 10 penalties in hand when winning the O/CNC2* at Rosanna with LEB Lias Jewel, while Galway show jumper Jessica Burke claimed Sunday’s national Grand Prix in Cavan riding Clonguish Vivaro.
“It’s my first national Grand Prix win so I’m thrilled,” Burke said. “The horse has been on fire. Every day he goes in the ring he tries 100%.”
Liam O’Meara was runner-up on Curraghgraigue Jack Take Flight, with third place going to Aidan Killeen and Idream.