Single refusal costs Ireland dearly as Italy takes Aga Khan Trophy
Irish showjumping team performs well, but elegant Italian quartet prove class above rest
Denis Lynch on All Star 5 as the horse refuses the final fence in the jump-off against Italy, who went on to win the Aga Khan Trophy at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson
The omens were good for the annual competition for the Aga Khan Trophy: the weather ideal and the main arena at the RDS providing the perfect setting, a world-class stage for a world-class tussle involving eight teams in which one of the main competitors, Ireland, was always in contention.
Each time an Irish rider entered the arena, the crowd responded as one, greeting a hero back from the war. Yet there was also a dramatic subplot in the formidable shape of the Italian team.
In an ensemble performance that could have been scripted by the late Federico Fellini from the great beyond, the elegant Italian quartet, rode quietly, effectively and with subdued flair.
When the event came down to a jump off to decide the winner, it was Ireland versus Italy and victory for the Italians was decided by a single mistake, a refusal that cost Ireland dearly.
For the showjumping community the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in Dublin is one of the sport’s major international events.
For a rider to be on a team, never mind a winning team, it is a dream come true.
But for the Irish public, the Aga Khan will always be known as exactly that and one thing is certain: Nations Cup day at the Dublin Horse Show is the one afternoons when everyone is an expert and the home team invariably rises to the occasion.
This year was an additional test of character and nerve as tensions surrounding the selection of a rider for the individual Olympic place must have heightened pressure on all involved. International show- jumpers competed for their countries, while the Irish team experienced its own battle of pride and wits and emerged with distinction. What a shame there is no Irish showjumping team going to Rio.
The first rider in was Britain’s Ben Maher on his mare Sarena. They hit two fences. Immediately the experts in the stand sighed, describing the course as “difficult”.
Then the US rider Lauren Hough cantered in and rode a breezy clear on her mare Ohlala. She made it look easy. Then Ireland’s Denis Lynch appeared on his Hanoverian stallion All Star 5, and they bounded around clear.
The Czech Republic was next in, followed by France and the Netherlands. Sweden’s Peder Fredricson went clear on his mare H &M Flip’s Little Sparrow and then the first of the Italians, and ultimately, the hero of the afternoon, Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci sauntered in on his stallion, Casallo Z.
True to his homeland’s operatic tradition Casallo Z has a fine voice, and tends to be verbal as he soars over the jumps. He reserved the best of it for the final three barriers, concluding with a warlike aria in a deep baritone. His rider Bucci remained impassive.
It was not a good outing for Jessica Springsteen, who encountered difficulties and retired as her father watched from the stands.
Moment of theatreAs Ireland’s Greg Broderick prepared to begin his round, Rio-bound MHS Going Global improvised and did a variation of a traditional reel. It was a tiny moment of theatre and perhaps his way of saying that although the only gelding on the team along with three stallions, he has attitude. He also went clear, twice. Greg Broderick celebrated by removing his hat and saluting the crowd.
There was more to come; later after his second clear, he was so happy that he just kept riding about and appeared to be about to burst into song.
Also competing for Ireland was Bertram Allen on his exciting nine-year-old stallion Hector van D’Abdijhoeve. It is still a young partnership and Hector hit the first and final jumps. In the second round, they went clear.
Olympic bronze medallist Cian O’Connor went clear twice on his fabulous Belgian stallion Good Luck.
When it came to the jump off between Ireland and Italy on a shortened course, Denis Lynch and his stallion were chosen for the task. But after a refusal at the last fence, it was Italy’s day and a team that gave a cohesive display of horsemanship was ably represented by another stallion, Casallo Z and the cool, masterful Piergiorgio who went clear.
If there was a prize for the finest combination on the day, it would be difficult to decide, but along with the Irish and the Italians was Johnny Pals from the Netherlands, with two thrilling clear rounds from the bold Fernando. Italy won the trophy, but showjumping as a sport did well.