TEAM Ireland finished fourth in their first Europe Division 1 qualifier of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup series in Sopot, Poland on Sunday afternoon where victory went to Germany thanks to faultless rounds from both Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann and Andre Thieme.
Michael Blake selected Denis Lynch, Trevor Breen, Mark McAuley and Darragh Kenny for the opening points-scoring competition of the 2022 season and Ireland came into the competition having already won four Nations Cups this year.
Lynch was first to go for the team over Polish course designer Szymon Tarant’s 12-fence track, with his recent Rome five-star Grand Prix winner Brooklyn Heights, a 13-year-old Nabab de Reve gelding owned by Molly Ohrstrom. The pair got the team off to the perfect start with an easy-looking clear round, the first of the competition.
Trevor Breen was next to go with Heather Black’s 10-year-old Clinton gelding Highland President, who was home-bred by his wife, Caroline Breen. This combination were part of the winning team in Abu Dhabi earlier in the year and looked like they were heading for a clear round here before tipping the plank at the second last (fence 11) and picking up a time fault to finish on five faults.
Mark McAuley was debuting the S.N.C. McAuley-owned gelding Django Ste Hermelle at this level. The nine-year-old French-bred by Upercut Kervec had a foot in the water and got difficult with his head down to the next vertical at fence 10 to knock that; they came home just over the time allowed to finish on nine faults.
Darragh Kenny was the anchorman with Vlock Show Stables’ 13-year-old stallion Volnay du Boisdeville. Previously ridden by his student, Israel’s Teddy Vlock up to five-star level, Kenny has taken over the ride and they faulted once at an oxer to finish with four faults.
That left Ireland on nine faults at the halfway stage. Germany were out in the lead on zero faults, ahead of Switzerland on four and France on nine.
Ireland only had to add one fault in the second round after three brilliant clears – Lynch completed a fantastic double clear, and Kenny was clear when last to go, while Breen picked up a single time faults. McAuley was the discard score with nine faults in the second round. That saw Ireland complete just off the podium in four faults, picking up 70 points.
Bolstered by two of the four double-clear performances posted on the day, Germany showed their class to win under pressure in the end. Faultless rounds from both Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann riding Messi van’t Ruytershof and Andre Thieme partnering DSP Chakaria proved pivotal to the German victory, and Thieme was under intense pressure when last to go in the second round.
But the 46-year-old rider and the mare with which he claimed the individual European title on home ground in Riesenbeck last September left all the poles in place to record the second successive German success at the Polish fixture.
As team anchor he thought he might not have to line out in the second round, but when both pathfinders Philipp Weishaupt and Coby 8 and second-line rider Christian Kukuk and Mumbai each left a fence on the floor at their second attempt then it wasn’t looking quite so optimistic.
The French were carrying seven faults, and brilliant clears from Kevin Staut (Scuderia 1918 Viking d’La Rousserie), Edward Levy (Uno de Cerisy) and Julien Gonin (Valou du Lys) meant they added nothing more, Gregory Cottard (Bibici) unlucky to clip the flimsy penultimate planks on his second tour of the track.
Meanwhile, clears from Alain Jufer (Dante MM) and a double-clear from Edouard Schmitz (Gamin van’t Naastveldhof) meant all the Swiss would have to add to their first-round four-fault tally was the single mistake from Elin Ott whose mare, Nanu ll, kicked a brick out of the wall at fence four, the eight picked up by Niklaus Schurtenberger (Quincassi) being their discard.
That left them on a final tally of eight faults, so Thieme knew he had little room for error if he was to take the win for his country when last into the ring. Germany needed to drop one of the two four-fault results posted in the second round to complete on the winning scoreline of just four faults, and although he could afford a couple of time faults, he knew a fence down would hand victory to the French and leave his side on level pegging with the Swiss.
It was an exact repeat of what happened last year when he also decided the result as last rider into the ring in Sopot, and although he said he felt the pressure neither he nor his amazing mare flinched, galloping home well within the 69-seconds time-allowed to clinch it.
“My mare just jumped so outstanding - she made it happen and I’m thankful to her and to Otto that he gave me his trust to be last to go - I’m so happy we did it again!” Thieme said afterwards.
German chef d’equipe Otto Becker thanked Sopot show president Kaja Koczurowska Wawrzkiewicz and her team for a great event. And she responded with a reminder of what is going on in the region right now.
“I’m out of words, completely exhausted but very happy. We had great crowds but this year was very tough for us. The situation is critical at our borders so it was hard organising the event while helping people at the same time, so I’m very glad it all went well,” she said.
In Friday’s 1.60m Longines Grand Prix, youngster Jack Ryan, who was the fifth man for the team, finished with a single time fault in the first round with his mother Marguerite’s home-bred BBS McGregor to keep them out of the jump-off.
The Grand Prix was won by Denmark’s Andreas Schou with Independent.
Denis Lynch is on the crest of a winning wave at the moment and added another five-star victory to his record on Saturday at the Polish venue.
Riding the 16-year-old GC Chopin’s Bushi, he raced to victory in the 1.45m Table A, posting the fastest of just two clear rounds in 63.39 seconds. Darragh Kenny finished third with Nobel vd Bisschop and Jack Ryan was sixth with Carramba L Z.