Italy end 32 years of hurt to take Italian five-star Nations’ Cup

Ireland finish an joint-third alongside Spain in Rome with the Netherlands second

There were emotional celebrations in Rome on Friday when the home team won the Italian five-star Nations’ Cup for the first time in 32 years.

Jumping in the Piazza di Sienna, right in the heart of the capital city, the Italians shared the lead with the Netherlands at the halfway stage but, in the second half, picked up just five faults compared to their rivals’ nine to record their first victory in the competition since 1985.

Third place, on 17 faults, was divided between Spain and Ireland. The Irish team, who bounced back from 13 faults in round one to just four after the break, comprised Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Paul Kennedy (Cartown Danger Mouse), Mark McAuley (Utchan de Belheme) and Shane Breen (Golden Hawk).

Rodrigo Pessoa, manager of the Irish show jumping team which is sponsored by Devenish Nutrition and The Underwriting Exchange, commented: "We made a very good recovery in the second round, I am pleased with the result.


“We scored good points with a mixed team - some younger riders who never jumped at this level before this year. I had a talk with the guys at the halfway stage and told them we needed to keep going and fight for points. They all gave us good rounds and were very positive.

“It was a good result considering France, Netherlands and Italy all had their best teams here. We showed a lot of character in the second round to move up the leaderboard. I want to give a special mention of congratulations to the Italian team on a great win on their home soil. The focus for us now turns to Rotterdam where we hope to have a very strong team.”

Later in Portugal, Ireland finished joint fourth (on 25 faults) with the hosts in the three-star Division 2 Nations' Cup in Lisbon which was easily won by a strong Belgian team on four faults ahead of Spain (21) and France (24). Led by development team manager Michael Blake, the Irish squad comprised Alex Butler (Hallowberry Cruz), Mikey Pender (Can Ya Makan), David Simpson (Keoki) and Dermott Lennon (Fleur IV).

On an individual basis, Irish riders’ excellent run at the five-star Global Champions’ Tour show in Hamburg continued on Friday with two more wins.

Seven combinations qualified for the second round of the lunchtime 1.50m speed competition with victory going to Co Armagh's Ross Mulholland who stopped the clock on 41.15 riding Callisto, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Ian O'Grady and Philippe de Balander. Greece's Aggelos Touloupis finished second on Zita 100 (41.73) with Germany's Heiko Schmidt third on Chap (42.02).

In the early evening's 1.50m jump-off class, where nine combinations qualified for the second round, Wexford's Bertram Allen claimed the €20,460 first prize when clear in 39.95 on Ballywalter Farms' 13-year-old grey mare Molly Malone V. Oliver Philippaerts of Belgium filled the runner-up spot on Ikker (40.29) with Jack Towell of the USA finishing third on New York (40.70).

The first leg of this year’s Showjumping Ireland national ladies’ championship takes place on Sunday in Middleton. The series, which is being sponsored by Top Oil, runs at 20 shows throughout the island, concluding at Whites Cross in early September.

At the launch of the championship, Gerard Boylan, Group Chief Executive of Top Oil commented: “Top Oil is proud to sponsor Showjumping Ireland’s Ladies Championship for 2017. As a leading Irish family owned home heating and fuel provider, we are committed to supporting local communities, and this partnership reflects that commitment. The development of both horses and athletes in a competitive arena is an important part of our heritage in Ireland and we are proud to be associated with Showjumping Ireland.”