Ireland drawn first to jump in five-star Rome Nations Cup

Defending champions Ireland have been drawn first to jump in tomorrow’s (Friday) five-star Italian Nations Cup at the historic oval at Piazza di Siena in Rome.

The 91st edition of the Piazza di Siena CSIO of Rome comes with a record prize fund of over €1 Million, with €500,000 of that up for grabs in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

Last year the story of the Nations Cup competition was all about the Irish who won the coveted trophy for the very first time since it was first staged in 1926.

“We were absolutely over the moon to win here last year, it took 97 efforts to win it!”, said Irish Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake this week.
“When I first came here were were barely pipped by Sweden into second place and at the time I didn’t know we had never won it, so obviously it went on my to-do list but it became very hard to do! Last year it went to a jump-off and luckily enough it all worked out for us. This year we are bringing what we perceive to be a strong team, the team that won the LLN in Ocala. But that was on a different continent and it was a couple of months ago so everybody is here for a reason and we are very hopeful we will have a good show, but we all know that horse sport can make fools out of any of us!”, he added out with a laugh.

Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake is sending out a formidable side once again. Daniel Coyle, Darragh Kenny, Cian O’Connor and Shane Sweetnam will all be wanting to impress with a view to the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

Like all of the riders, team managers and all the visiting crews, Blake says the CSIO in Rome is very special indeed. “I’ve been coming here since 2017 and I absolutely love it. When you walk down the hill and see all the people sitting on the grass and watching the show and appreciating it, and the general public walking through – it puts the show back into showjumping and I love that!”

The natural amphitheatre at Piazza di Siena provides the perfect viewing area from which to see the action, and the fact that the public can watch it for free is a huge plus in the Irishman’s opinion.

“It’s like a theatre, the arena down below where they can see it all happening and then go for an ice-cream at half time – it’s the most fabulous experience for everyone, the horses, the riders and the public!”

But there are plenty of other top teams ready to get in the way of last year’s winners and this evening the Irish were drawn in the unfavourable first-to-go starting position in Friday’s competition.

The draw was conducted by both Event Director Diego Nepi Molineris and a lady who is a legend of Italian showjumping, Lalla Novo. The Irish will be followed into the ring by teams from Mexico, Austria, USA, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Sweden and Australia in that order before Team Italy take their turn as last to go.

The Italian Nations Cup in Rome gets underway at 1.30pm Irish time on Friday afternoon, with live updates on The Irish Horse Board social media channels.