The next four weeks will probably be the most challenging in the history of Irish international show jumping.
Between now and mid-August our riders will be bidding to complete a crucial treble; the Prince of Wales Cup at Hickstead, Olympic qualification at Herning plus Ireland’s 23rd winning of the Aga Khan Trophy at the RDS.
In the process they will also hope to seal Ireland’s qualification for the €2m FEI Longines Nations Cup Final in Barcelona next September.
From Rome to Calgary to Aachen to Hickstead our unique diaspora of Irish riders have had an extraordinary series of victories this season so far.
Thus, Ireland now has eight of our competitors in the world’s top 50. A further three are in the top 100.
This leaves our chef d’equipe Michael Blake with a good array of talent at his disposal as he selects teams for these major contests.
But for the home audience, it is what happens between now and the Aga Khan on August 19th that matters most.
Beginning in Sussex
It all begins next week at the Bunn family’s famous All England Jumping Arena in Hickstead, Sussex.
Oddly enough Ireland has had fairly limited success in the Prince of Wales Cup there. Our Army team did win it beautifully back in 1937.
More recently the side of Trevor Breen, Anthony Condon, Michael Duffy and Richie Moloney took it in 2018.
If we can do it again live on RTE it will surely put Ireland in a good place to take one of the seven slots available for the Cup Final in Barcelona.
The most important element of our participation at the 2022 World Championships in Herning, Denmark (August 6-14) are the qualifying places available for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Michael Blake notes: “We would really like to get our qualification done early.”
So, this is his chance! It has not yet been confirmed as to whether the team event there will be broadcast live on RTE or not, but with the strong audience they got for Rotterdam we can only hope that it will.
Home for the Aga Khan
Eddie Macken always said: “No matter what else we do in any given year, it is what happens at home in the Aga Khan that really matters.”
And that sentiment has never changed. Ireland first took it in 1928 and has won it 22 times since – the most recent in 2015.
A win this time on Friday August 19th could put the Irish top of the order going into the Barcelona final.
But most of all for the home crowd it would be a very nice climax to an historic season.