IT can be counted on one hand the number of times the Aga Khan Trophy has left Dublin – but this week the iconic golden chalice found a new, if only temporary, home.
Clare native Michael Blake, team manager to Ireland’s senior show jumpers, had promised the town of Tuamgraney that he would bring the most coveted trophy in equestrian sports home and on Wednesday night, he delivered on that promise.
Hundreds showed up in Tuamgraney Memorial Park for a civic reception to greet Blake, team members Max Wachman and Cian O’Connor, as well as team vet Marcus Swail, brother of Aga Khan jump-off hero Conor Swail.
With local politicians, press and RDS management in attendance on a specially erected stage, the huge crowd were treated to an unforgettable evening, with MC Brendan McArdle whipping them into a frenzy as their man emerged with the Aga Khan trophy, flanked by Wachman and O’Connor.
It has been a magical summer for equestrian sports, with the Aga Khan success coming just a week after the senior show jumpers qualified for the Paris Olympics, a European and a World Championships win our Young Breeders, as well as for our Junior and Young Riders in Show Jumping and Eventing European Championships.
“People said it would be difficult to get both done,” Blake said, adding: “We had to think long and hard about how we would split the team and whether we should just go for the Olympics and get that done and put all our eggs in one basket. We discussed it as a team and a group and felt that we had enough horses and riders to do both. For a minute or two in both places it was feeling very lonely but in the end it all worked out. In six and half days our world changed, we got the Olympic qualification and the Aga Khan trophy, which was just fantastic.”
Not to be outdone, the Irish Grand National trophy even made an appearance when 2022 hero Lord Lariat’s owner Michael Blake, from Kilkee, emerged with his cup to pose alongside his namesake and the two chalices.
After Blake finished the ceremony by serenading the crowd with Danny Boy, he spent hours alongside Wachman and O’Connor greeting the crowd.