Ireland miss out as USA's women make Cup history
An all female US team of four leading riders made history by winning the Nations Cup event at the Dublin Horse Show yesterday to take home the coveted gold Aga Khan Trophy.
Laura Kraut, Harvard student Lillie Keenan, Lauren Hough and Beezie Madden were magnificent in their accuracy and horsemanship as they gave an exhibition of pure brilliance to win on a zero score. They made history as the first ever women's team to win the Aga Khan.
Captain Mark Phillips, former husband of Princess Anne, was watching in the wings as his partner of five years Lauren Hough produced two stunning clear rounds with Ohlala.
He had predicted earlier yesterday: "I think they will win."
The disappointment of Ireland's chances fading in the second round as they plummeted into fifth was evident on the faces of the spectators, but winning team rider Keenan praised her Irish trainer Cian O'Connor and her horse Super Sox.
"There is no feeling like winning the Nations Cup. I train with Cian O'Connor and I study history of science at Harvard, and Cian keeps my horses ticking over for me," she said.
Moved to tears by the US win, team chef d'equipe Robert Ridland said his riders won the most important Nations Cup event in the world and had a strategy to do it.
Ireland's downhearted Rodrigo Pessoa said: "I feel deflated - as we go to the European championships in two weeks we had to leave some horses in the stalls."
The Irish team still received a cheque for €16,000, while the US team collected €64,000.
Banbridge pony rider Alex Finney was crowned 2017 138cm Pony National champion as Ulster showjumpers impressed at the world class event.
The talented rider claimed the prestigious title and RDS Perpetual trophy in the main arena from an eight pony jump off and 14 starters.
Finney - with Dolly du Carel, a bay eight year old pony mare owned by Jean Finney - was fastest over the second round track to win in 30.58.
Maguiresbridge producer and rider James Hogg on board his Plot Blue four-year-old gelding was untouchable in the qualifier following up on his Wednesday win by scoring 87 on Drummiller Dynamic. The classy bay gelding, bred in Banbridge by Paul Dillon, produced another outstanding clear round to beat Jessica Burke on Desmond Judge's Lux a Special Lady, scoring 84.50.
Stewartstown physiotherapist Heather Crawford was overjoyed when her home bred HSC Sunny Jim scored 81.50 and finished third with Florencecourt's Catherine Thornton in the saddle.
Omagh schoolgirl Niamh McEvoy on talented seven-year-old pony Fireman took an impressive fourth place in the six and seven-year-old 148cms class.