Conor put it in the back of the net,” was course builder Alan Wade’s succinct summary of Conor Swail’s brilliant jump-off round that sealed Ireland’s 24th win of the Aga Khan Trophy at last week’s Longines Nations Cup Dublin Horse Show. The Aga Khan glory was part of a dominant Irish sweep of the prizes as Ireland brought rich talent home to win an amazing eight of the 11 major international classes, as well as finishing second, third and fourth in the Longines Grand Prix, scooping a good share of the €900,000 on offer.

Pender shines

Setting the pace on Wednesday was Kildare’s Mikey Pender as he scored the first of his hat trick wins in the opening Speed Stakes on Marion Hughes’ HHS Fortune.

As the show progressed he again topped the line in Thursday’s Clayton Speed Derby. Then he was the only one to jump the wall at 7’2” in Saturday’s Land Rover Puissance on the lively Hickstead Derby-winning stallion Hearton du Bois Halleux. Mikey was also Lead Rider of the Dublin Horse Show.

Sligo’s Richard Howley took up the running later on Tuesday with a win in the Manton Grange Stakes on Fame. He made it a double as he also took Saturday’s Kilkea Castle Stakes with Chinook.

Completing an Irish opening day treble was Limerick’s Paul O’Shea as he won the Grand Prix qualifying HSI Classic on his good USA winner, Skara Glen Machu Picchu. So by the time we had reached Friday’s Aga Khan Trophy, Ireland had won four of the five internationals to date. Jason Foley also took Thursday’s 7-8 year-old international on Far West du Hus.

The Exciting Aga Khan

All that went before was a prelude to one of Ireland’s most stunning Aga Khan wins ever as the team of Shane Sweetnam, Max Wachman, Cian O’Connor and star Conor Swail took it for the 24th time but the first since 2015.

Precision, poise and professionalism gave Ireland three superb first round clears from Conor on Count Me In, Shane on James Kann Cruz (ISH ) (bred by Patrick Connolly in Galway) and Cian on Kilkenny (ISH ) (bred by the Brennan Family in Gowran). Cian and Kilkenny put Ireland in the lead ahead of four faulters France and Switzerland.

France fought back and came up with four second round clears. Conor had a double clear but then Ireland faltered as Sweetnam had the very last down and Max faulted at the treble. It took a pressure clear from Cian O’Connor to stabilise the ship and put Ireland into a nail-biting jump-off with France on four faults each.

Dublin Horse Show Longines FEI Nations Cup Conor Swail with the Aga Khan Trophy celebrates victory with a lap of honour \ Lorraine O'Sullivan

For the timed round Ireland’s team manager Michael Blake chose the long-experienced and number four in the world, Conor Swail. France’s speedster Marc Dilasser went first and came back clear in a smooth 31.81 seconds. His time at the crucial turn back to the wall was 21 seconds. The packed stands silently wondered could Conor beat that?

But with the brilliant 15 year-old Count Me In the answer soon came. Up by a second, at the very second fence, this speeding pair kept up the pace and were crossing the wall with two seconds to spare.

Then it was safely through the double and over the final spread to notch a time of 30.31seconds and bathe in an ecstatic roar from the crowd that matched anything I had ever heard at Ballsbridge.

On Saturday, Hickstead based Trevor Breen won the €51,300 Dublin Stakes CSIO 5* jump-off with Germaine W, bringing Ireland’s total number of wins to eight.

The Longines Grand Prix

Edward Levy restored some French honour when pipping Jordan Coyle, Mikey Pender and Richard Howley in a close fought Lisney Speed Championship on Sunday. But then it was on to the €350,000 Longines Grand Prix. From 40 qualified starters, Alan Wade allowed just seven clears over a twisting and challenging 14 fence track.

Dublin Horse Show Longines FEI Nations Cup Ireland's Cian O'Connor, Conor Sweetnam, Chef d'Equipe Michael Blake, Conor Swail and Max Wachman celebrate victory \ Lorraine O'Sullivan

Among them were Shane Sweetnam on James Kann Cruz (ISH), Andrew Bourns aboard Sea Top Blue (ISH) and Conor Swail on his Aga Khan hero Count Me In. In a sharp-turn seven fence jump-off, Shane took the early lead in 41.92 but Switzerland’s Eduard Schmitz produced a blistering round of 39.82 seconds to win it. Conor Swail came a close second in 40.29 seconds ahead of Shane Sweetnam third and Andrew Bourns fourth.

A great show and a joyful Irish performance to end on!

Passing of Nicholas O’Hare

Fellow journalist and author Nicholas O’Hare passed away just before the Horse Show that he so often attended. A long-term columnist of The Irish Field, publisher of many equestrian annuals and author of some 20 books, Nicholas was the pen of Irish equestrianism during his long lifetime. We remember him with respect and admiration. His diligent work will remain as a very valuable archive long after him.