THE Irish team will not get complacent after an emphatic victory in the €1 million Mercedes Benz Nations Cup in Aachen, Germany, on Thursday night, team manager Michael Blake has said. It was a sixth Irish win in the history of the competition, and the first since 2010.

The victory was another in a long line of top drawer results this year for Blake’s squad of senior show jumpers. The team of Denis Lynch (Vistogrand), Bertram Allen (Pacino Amiro (ISH)), Shane Sweetnam (James Kann Cruz (ISH)) and Cian O’Connor (Fancy De Kergane) finished on a score of zero without having to jump their final rider. The team landed €250,000 for victory.

“We’ve had a great year so far. We set some targets for ourselves, we haven’t achieved them all, but we have achieved a good few of them. It’s a huge honour to win at a big show like this, the crowd appreciate it and are so knowledgeable,” Blake told The Irish Field.

Three of the four athletes selected for the Paris Olympic Games (August 1st – 6th), were part of the winning team in Aachen, two of them on the horses they will take to the Games. With Olympic fever ramping up, Ireland’s form is coming good at the right time.

Asked about going into the Games with expectations of a medal on your back, Blake said: “The favourites tag isn’t a tag I like. I prefer when we are not favourites, because it’s easier to focus the mind and focus the minds of the lads. I’ll be taking them away from any shades of complacency anyway. We have a job to do. We know exactly what it will take to do it, and patting yourself on the back in advance is not going to help them. So we won’t be doing that. We will be concentrating on the job. We’ll be doing our very best.”


In front of a packed out German crowd at one of the world’s best shows, the first round took place in daylight, but as the class went on, it turned into an exciting class of the world’s best riders, jumping under the floodlights in the magnificent arena.

Ireland were drawn first to go of the 10 teams and Denis Lynch, who was on the team in 2010 when they last won here, was first into the arena with his own and Tipperary’s Finest Est’s 11-year-old stallion Vistogrand (Fantaland x Mr Visto).

The pair got off to a horrible start, when the stallion seemed to back off on the way to the first fence and then took off early, just about getting over it.

However, the experienced pair recovered well and finished on those four faults.

Blake was looking for his next rider, Bertram Allen, to steady the ship and that he did. Riding the Paris-bound 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse Pacino Amiro (Pacino x NC Amiro), owned by Ballywalter Stables and bred by Simon Scott, the pair were excellent around the big 1.60m track to finish with a clear.

Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro (ISH) jumped double clear and were part of the winning Irish team at CHIO Aachen \ Tomas Holcbecher

The third rider for Ireland was another combination primed for the Olympic Games, in Shane Sweetnam and the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding James Kann Cruz (Kannan x Cruising), owned by the rider and Gizmo Partners and bred in Galway by Patrick Connolly.

The grey gelding was extremely careful, particularly through the double and over the triple bar close to home to complete on a clear.

Last to go in his usual anchor role was Cian O’Connor, who was also part of the winning team in 2010. Also Paris-bound, O’Connor was not riding his Olympic horse, instead the super-talented nine-year-old French-bred stallion Fancy De Kergane (Berdenn de Kergane x Cor de Hus). Owned by Coolmore Showjumping and Susan Magnier, the stallion has jumped three Nations Cups in the last month and has been clear in all. Looking like he has a big role to play in future Irish teams, he duly delivered with another foot-perfect clear under the big atmosphere in Aachen.

Cian O'Connor and Fancy de Kergane were part of the winning Irish team in CHIO Aachen, jumping a clear first round and they were not required to jump in the second round \ Tomas Holcbecher

After the first round, Ireland were tied with Mexico, Britain, Sweden and The Netherlands on zero faults, while two of the big players – Switzerland and the USA – were knocked out of the running.

Final showdown

Lynch came out the second time and put any gremlins at the first fence behind him to produce a super clear, before Allen made it a double clear. With the other zero fault teams falling by the way side, when Sweetnam entered the arena, he knew another faultless round would secure victory without O’Connor needing to jump.

James Kann Cruz was a lot more settled in the second round, and never looked like touching a fence to wrap up the major victory for the team.

A delighted Sweetnam said: “He was a bit too exuberant in the first round, he hasn’t jumped since La Baule. He is the type of horse who is better when doing more shows, maybe. But he really jumped a lovely second round. He loves his job, he steps up a gear when he goes into the ring.

“He’s gets fairly lit in that atmosphere, but that is nothing new. You are just trying to keep him calm, especially here with the bigger ring and a lot going on. There are other places that are easier for him, but he really enjoyed it.”

Sweetnam added: “We had a very good team, everyone was pulling for each other, that was the biggest factor in this win.”

Denis Lynch and Vistogrand were part of the winning Irish team at CHIO Aachen with a clear second round \ Tomas Holcbecher

All eyes on Paris

Blake will take a team to the five-star shows in Falsterbo and Hickstead in the coming weeks, before heading to Versailles, but for the Olympic horses, that will be the last big outing.

Sweetnam confirmed James Kann Cruz will jump some small classes in Dinard the week after next, while Blake expects that will be the last show for Pacino Amiro and Cian O’Connor’s Maurice, who was fourth in the 1.60m at the venue on Wednesday evening.

The fourth Olympic team horse, Daniel Coyle’s Legacy, is jumping some smaller classes at the three-star show in Ommen this weekend.

“We want to mind them and keep them safe. Now’s not the time to be doing our work; now is the time to be taking the foot off the gas,” Blake said.

Meanwhile, Dag Albert has selected a team of Ian Cassells, Joseph Murphy, Austin O’Connor and Sam Watson for the CCIO4*-S SAP Cup at the venue.