IRISH eyes were smiling at the Dublin Horse Show yesterday when the boys in green treated their home crowd to a display of masterly show jumping to win the Aga Khan trophy for the first time in eight years.

The enormous crowds who packed the stands erupted as the home team just edged out the French and British teams to secure the Aga Khan trophy on a final score of five faults, and moved up the overall Nations Cup series standings to third.

Ireland’s Clem McMahon (Pacino), Richie Moloney (Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve), Darragh Kerins (Lisona) and Cian O’Connor (Blue Loyd 12) went in at the halfway stage on just a single fault, but two more clears and a four-fault round were enough to secure the memorable victory.

Afterwards, a delighted chef d’equipe Robert Splaine, who has now secured Nations Cup wins at Hickstead and Dublin with his team selections, said: “It’s fantastic after eight years, a wonderful achievement. Thanks to the team, their wives and girlfriends, and the owners. It’s absolutely brilliant; I’m absolutely thrilled.”

Kilkenny’s Richie Moloney said: “I’m very proud. I could not be happier; it means the world.” Sligo’s Darragh Kerins, clear in round one on Lisona (ISH), added: “This is what we work all our life for. It’s unbelievable, the crowd behind us. This is just a dream.”

Anchor combination

Clem McMahon and Pacino posted an all-important double clear, and proved to be the anchor combination of the Irish team. “To jump a double clear here in front of your home crowd, it will die with me, so it will,” said McMahon from the winners’ podium.

Olympic bronze medallist Cian O’Connor and Blue Loyd 12, who dropped just the last fence to post four faults in round one, didn’t have to jump again, with second place going to France on eight faults, and Britain in third on nine overall.

The penultimate fence, the telephone box vertical over a water tray, soon became the bogey fence on Alan Wade’s track, while the bookcase wall at seven caused problems on round two.

McMahon, riding the imposing Pacino, a son of Diamant De Semilly who is owned by the rider’s mother Maureen, was first to jump for Ireland, and set the standard with a foot-perfect clear. The stallion rose to the big occasion and hardly touch a pole.

Followed suit

Ireland’s second combination, the American-based Moloney and Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve, followed suit and put in a clean round of jumping. However, they were just over the time allowed of 81 seconds and incurred a single time fault.

Kerins and the John Ledingham-bred Lisona, by OBOS Quality, were next to jump for Ireland. The crowd held its breath as they negotiated the course, and erupted in applause as Kerins crossed the line clear. The 11-year-old gelding is owned in partnership by Kevin Babington and Maaten Huggens.

After the fourth Swedish rider faulted, O’Connor and his Olympic mount Blue Loyd 12 entered the arena knowing that Ireland would still lead at the halfway stage. Keen to give Ireland a third clear, they set off in determined style and looked set to go clear.

However, just as the crowd started to cheer, Blue Loyd 12, who is owned by O’Connor and junior rider Max O’Reilly Hyland, caught the final oxer behind to leave them on four faults, and Ireland on one.

In the second round, McMahon set the stands alight when jumping another clear, throwing his helmet in the air as he celebrated. “Unbelievable, such a buzz,” was his reaction afterwards. “I’m show jumping a long time, and to jump a double clear in the Aga Khan on a horse I’ve produced since a three-year-old, who’s owned by my mother, and with my wife here – it’s such a thrill.”

Record straight

Moloney and Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve returned and set the record straight, jumping a clear inside the time to leave Ireland in a very strong position with two riders remaining. “Brilliant,” Moloney said. “I couldn’t have asked for better from the home crowd. He jumped great. I was only a second quicker, but timed it right this time.”

When Kerins and Lisona entered the arena, a clear would have secured victory for Ireland, and once again there was silence around the main arena. A victory was within Ireland’s grasp but, as the Irish fans got ready to celebrate, Lisona caught the back bar of the Failte Ireland oxer for four faults.

A disappointed Kerins commented: “She was getting a little bit strong, and the ground is getting deep over that side. I might have tried too hard; I probably should have left her alone.”

A clear from Britain’s John Whitaker on Argento would have put them in with a chance of winning, but he retired after having fences six and seven down. He was followed by French rider Kevin Staut, and a clear would have put the pressure on Cian O’Connor.

However, when they faulted, victory was handed to Ireland and O’Connor wasn’t required to jump.

Aga Khan Trophy

Final Result

Ireland 5 faults

France 8 faults

Britain 9 faults

Netherlands 16 faults

Belgium 24 faults

Switzerland 24 faults

Sweden 28 faults

Germany 29 faults

Share of Invincible Spirit is sold


THE Irish National Stud’s Invincible Spirit joins the ranks of the world’s most in-demand sires after a share of the stallion, believed to be a quarter, is understood to have been sold during the week.

No price has been revealed, and the rumoured buyers are remaining tight-lipped. Industry sources have indicated that a valuation of €40 million would reflect the market price for the son of Green Desert. The 10-year-old Group 1 winner has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top. His first crop includes the dual Group 1 winner Lawman, and that crop set a world record for the number of individual juvenile winners.

His second crop is also performing with distinction, and already contains four stakes winners. They include last weekend’s Group 2 Debutante Stakes heroine Campfire Glow, and the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes winner Fleeting Spirit.

Neither Darley’s John Ferguson nor John Clarke, the chief executive of the Irish National Stud, were making any comment on the rumoured sale, though Clarke did confirm that the stud had “turned down a substantial offer for the horse from the USA last week.

Invincible Spirit’s fee in 2007 was €35,000, and this is expected to rise again for next season. The stallion’s leading performers also include Group 2 winners Captain Marvelous and Conquest, classic-placed Bahama Mama, and stakes winners Stevie Gee, Samya, Spirit Of Sharjah and Mystic Spirit.

[As predicted, Invincible Spirit’s fee rocketed to €75,000 in 2008, but fell back down for a number of years, rising again to a peak of €120,000 for four seasons from 2016 on. This year he was available for €60,000.

He has enjoyed great success as a stallion, as a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire. His record stands presently as the sire of 141 stakes winners on the flat, 71 of which have won at group/graded stakes level.

Twenty of these have won at the highest level, and they are Moonlight Cloud (six Group 1s), Kingman (four), Charm Spirit (three), Yosei (three), dual Group/Grade 1 winners Lawman, Magna Grecia, Nazeef and Shalaa, as well as Eqtidaar, Fleeting Spirit, Hooray, Mayson, National Defense, Profitable, Rosdhu Queen, Royal Meeting, Signs Of Blessing Territories and Vale Of York]