THE Irish senior show jumping team won their fourth Nations Cup of the year at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley on Sunday, running away with the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Canada.

Six teams lined out for the final leg of the North and Central America and Caribbean division of the Nations Cup series, but none could put enough pressure on Michael Blake’s four-man squad of Daniel Coyle, Shane Sweetnam, Andrew Bourns and Conor Swail, who finished well clear of the rest on five faults.

Ireland has been on the podium at the venue every year since 2017 and Sunday marked their second win at the five-star venue, and the second five-star Nations Cup win of 2022, following victory in Abu Dhabi earlier in the season.

“Every result here is special,” Blake commented afterwards. “It took me a year to figure out how to win, but we haven’t been off the podium. We’ve had mixed teams here. We’ve had to cajole people onto teams here. But this year we prioritized this event.

“Obviously we have got good depth, and I’m so lucky to have such a good bunch of people. It’s very easy to drive a good car, and we’ve got one here,” the chef d’equipe added.

Derry’s Daniel Coyle was first to go for the team with Ariel Grange’s 12-year-old mare Legacy (Chippendale Z x Bon Ami) and the pair knocked one rail to finish with four faults.

Irish Sport Horses

Galway’s Andrew Bourns was next to go with one of two Irish Sport Horses on the team, his own and OBS Equestrian LLC’s 11-year-old gelding Sea Topblue (Chacco-Blue x Lux Z), who was bred by John and James Meade. The pair, who were also on the winning team in Florida earlier in the year, were foot-perfect to record the first clear round.

Corkman Shane Sweetnam followed suit with another clear on the brilliant nine-year-old gelding CSF James Kann Cruz who was making his debut at the level. Bred in Co Galway by Patrick Connolly, the grey by Kannan is out of CSF Telly Cruz (Cruising) and was produced up to 1.50m level in Ireland by Francis Connors. Now owned by Gizmo Partners LLC, he joined Sweetnam’s string in February and has stepped up to five-star level with ease.

Co Down world number five Conor Swail was anchor man aboard his recent World Cup finalist mount Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes), owned by Mannon Farm and Sandy Lupton, and the pair finished with four faults in round one. That left Ireland out in the lead on four faults at the halfway point.

Coyle and Legacy got Ireland off to a perfect start in the second round with a clear. Bourns completed a brilliant double clear round with Sea Topblue which put Ireland within touching distance of victory.

Sweetnam sealed the Irish win when he came home with just a time fault, meaning Swail didn’t need to jump in the second round as Ireland could not be beaten on a two round total of five faults. Mexico finished as runners-up on 13 faults, while Australia finished third on 22 faults.

While it wasn’t the home team’s day, Canada’s fourth-place finish secured their qualification for Nations Cup finals after their runner-up effort in Mexico in March. Mexico, who took a home win that day, also qualified, cementing themselves as division leaders.

Ireland last won the event in 2018, and both Coyle and Swail were on that squad. In the years since, Coyle has placed among the top 10 individually at the European Championships, while Swail has risen to the fifth ranked rider in the world on the prestigious Longines rankings.

Sea Topblue—scouted by Bourns’ family as a foal—produced just one of two double-clear rounds on the day.

“My father is here, so it’s a real family affair,” Bourns said. “I have to say, [Seatop Blue] is just as part of the family as I am.

“You’ve got to be careful—for me anyway—in the Nations Cup not to get too complacent in the second round. We had a great first round, but a lot of other teams got stronger in the second round,” Bourns said. “We had to come back just as strong.”

On a horse he has great hopes for, Sweetnam commented: “[James Kann Cruz] probably could go and jump anywhere, but he’s still only nine, [and] he still has his green moments. He’s experienced without being too much so, and I thought this would be a good place to step up.”