Irish Show Jumping team score runner-up finish at thrilling Longines League of Nations opener in Abu Dhabi

Photo: The Irish Show Jumping team (l-r) Denis Lynch, Mikey Pender, Richard Howley, Michael Blake (team manager) and Mark McAuley

A strong performance from the Irish Show Jumping team saw them finish as runners-up in today’s (Sunday) opening leg of the new Longines League of Nations series at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. A thrilling competition saw the result hang in the balance until the very last rider left the arena, with Germany emerging as winners ahead of Ireland in second and Sweden in third.

Ireland came into the competition as the world’s top-ranked team and for much of the drama-filled action that followed, it looked as though Ireland would emerge victorious. Richard Howley was selected by team manager Michael Blake as first to go for Ireland, with the Sligo rider full of confidence following his recent double of wins in the Longines FEI World Cup series. Riding Equine America Consulent de Prelet Z, Howley gave Ireland the perfect start with a foot perfect clear round. Kildare’s Mikey Pender was next to jump and he added another clear with HHS Calais (ISH) who was bred in Kilkenny by Ita Brennan.

Third to go for Ireland, Tipperary’s Denis Lynch and Cordial looked to be heading for a clear round, but lowered the last fence to finish on four faults. Ireland were still in a strong position on a zero score as their last combination entered the arena. Louth’s Mark McAuley was last to go for Ireland in the first round with GRS Lady Amaro (ISH), bred in Co Wexford by Denis Hickey. A hugely impressive clear left Ireland on a first round score of zero and with a one fence advantage over Germany and Sweden who were in a share of second.


Under the new Longines League of Nations format, just three riders from each team go forward to the second round of competition, with all three scores to count.. Michael Blake selected Richard Howley, Mikey Pender and Mark McAuley and the Germans and Swedes put the pressure on Ireland when both of their riders jumped clear as the second round got underway. Richard Howley was equal to the task and completed a flawless double clear with Equine America Consulent de Prelet Z to keep Ireland out in front.

The new format of no drop score in the second round then really came into force. A 12 fault score for Peder Fredricson dented Sweden’s hopes and then Ireland’s second rider, Mikey Pender, picked up eight faults with HHS Calais (ISH). Germany’s second rider, Jörne Sprehe, jumped clear to push his team into the lead on four faults, one fence ahead of Ireland on eight. The last rider for Germany, David Will, knew a clear round would give them victory but they finished with one fence down to give Ireland a chance of a jump-off. Despite a great effort, Mark McAuley and GRS Lady Amaro (ISH) finished with one fence down to leave Ireland on a final score of 12 faults. Germany took victory on an eight fault score while Sweden finished third of the eleven competing nations on 20 faults.

The result in Abu Dhabi gives Ireland a welcome 90 points from their first outing in the Longines League of Nations heading into the second leg in Ocala Florida, USA in mid-March.


HHS Calais (ISH) – 2011 gelding by Cavalier Royale (HOLST) out of MHS OBOS Cruise (ISH) by OBOS Quality (OLD). Breeder: Ita Brennan, Co. Kilkenny. Owner: Bravo Hughes Ltd. Rider: Michael Pender (IRL).

GRS Lady Amaro (ISH) – 2013 mare by Amaretto Darco (BWP) out of Legal Lady (TB) by Over The River (TB). Breeder: Denis Hickey, Co. Wexford. Owner: S.N.C McAuley. Rider: Mark McAuley (IRL).