What a difference a fence makes! In the close fought FEI Longines Nations Cup at Hickstead it was the innocuous white upright second fence in the second round that did all the damage.

As it fell to a tap by Shane Breen’s young Vistogrand everything changed for Michael Blake’s squad in terms of either winning the Prince of Wales Cup or qualifying for the €2m Nations Cup Final in Barcelona next September.

Instead of having a chance of joining France, Germany and Brazil in a jump-off for 100 qualifying points the Irish squad were left languishing in fifth place for a gain of only 60 that leaves them two places adrift of the magic seven that make the final.

The selected squad now has it all to do in making up ground in the last qualifying round at the RDS Dublin Horse Show next week.

As matters stand after Hickstead, Ireland are on 210 points in ninth place behind Sweden and Switzerland, which is currently holding on to that coveted seventh place on 225 points. The Swedes have used up all of their qualifying slots but the Swiss have one left and are using it in Dublin.

This really puts pressure on the Irish to deliver in the Aga Khan. While bidding to win it for the first time since 2015, they must also make sure that they gain enough points to place them above the Swiss in the rankings and into one of those seven qualifying slots for Barcelona.

Some Hickstead Positives

Despite that disappointing second round second fence, the Irish squad of Shane Breen, Alexander Butler, Andrew Bourns and Jack Ryan had many positives as they put up a good fight among the seven countries taking part. Most positive of all was the fact that two of their clear rounds came from two Irish-breds.

Andrew Bourns was on Sea Top Blue by Chacco Blue out of Sea Top Lady (ISH) that was bred by James and John Meade in County Clare and was bought as a foal at Cavan Sales by the Bourns family.

Jack Ryan rode BBS McGregor by Cardento out of Random Chance (ISH) by the Thoroughbred Mark Twain. This ten-year-old gelding was bred by Jack’s mum Marguerite in Kilkenny. We are approaching the time when all four of an Irish team will be home-bred.

World Championships Under Way

Meanwhile, the Irish side of Cian O’Connor, Denis Lynch, Darragh Kenny, Daniel Coyle and reserve Bertram Allen are already in the thick of the action at the World Show Jumping Championships in Herning, Denmark, where tomorrow they will be bidding not only for medals but for one of five qualifying places for the Paris Olympics.