The show jumping team season comes to its conclusion this weekend when fifteen countries do battle in the annual FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona.
It will be a chance for Ireland’s manager Rodrigo Pessoa to raise the spirits after the disappointment of the recent world championships.
Although finishing seventh out of the twenty-five teams who took part was no disaster, the expectation had been that Ireland, as European champions, would be a good bet for a medal or at least a top-six finish which would have booked a place at Tokyo 2020.
That Olympic goal must now wait until next year’s European Championships which carry three additional Tokyo slots, and there will be one more chance thereafter at next year’s equivalent of this week’s nations cup final at which one more spot will be on offer.
By contrast, Ireland qualified comfortably for this week’s affair as runners-up in their Europe Division 1 league, well inside the cup of a top-seven finish.
In fact, all ten teams in that division will take part in this week’s event, even though Germany, Italy and Spain didn’t qualify automatically. Spain are there as hosts, while the Italian and German teams made it due to Colombia and New Zealand, who both competed at the world championships, declining to participate this week’s event.
Being so soon after the world championships, the Barcelona final sees a lot of changes to squads and the Irish one is no exception, with only Shane Breen and Ipswich van de Wolfsakker following on.
Pessoa has called up Anthony Condon and Aristio, part of his Hickstead-winning team, as well as Darragh Kenny (Balou du Reventon), Billy Twomey (Kimba Flamenco) and Michael G. Duffy (Lapuccino 2).
It marks the first time Duffy has been engaged by the manager for a premier nations cup event. The young Mayo rider’s career has gone to new heights this year with a number of impressive performances in his first season on the Global Champions Tour with Lapuccino 2 and Castlefield Rubinus.
The fifteen teams at Barcelona will contest the opening round on Friday evening, following which only the top eight will progress to Sunday’s conclusion.
At Cavan Equestrian Centre last weekend Heike Holstein became the first Irish rider to win twelve national titles with victory at the Dressage Ireland National Championships. The Kildare rider scored 67.029% on home-bred nine year-old Sambuca.
“She is one of the best horses I have had,” Holstein said.
“She is a star. She loves the atmosphere and she is getting better all the time. She was a bit tricky when she was younger. I think she is going to be great.”
Dane Rawlins finished in second place on Espoire on 64.058% with Katy Price and Bon Viveur earning third on a mark of 62.536%.
Holstein and Sambuca also won the Intermédiare II championship in which Rawlins and Espoire were second ahead of Sorrel Klatzco on Highlight. Kevin Acres and Saint Emilion II scored 67.94% to win the Prix St-Georges championship.