Michael Blake is delighted to be lying in fourth place after day one of the FEI European Jumping Championship in Milano.
The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping Team jumped four excellent rounds in the 1.50m class which kicked off the competition ahead of two more ultra-competitive days of Nations Cup action tomorrow and Friday.
The team of Michael Duffy riding Cinca 3, Trevor Breen riding Highland President, Shane Sweetnam riding James Kann Cruz (ISH) and Eoin McMahon riding Mila lie just outside the podium places – which suits Team Manager Blake just fine.
“We’re exactly where I would have liked to be coming into the day, and I think we’re a bit unlucky not to be closer to the lead. That said, all of our horses and riders are performing well and we’ll be fourth last to jump tomorrow, which hopefully sets us up nicely,” Blake said.
“It was tricky out there, the ground played a big part in the results and you could see with some of the world’s best having poles down that it was a real test. I’m happy with how it played out, though, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Michael Duffy and his talented mare Cinca 3, owned by Hibernian Sport Horses Ltd., were first into the arena for Ireland and set the tone with a flawless round of jumping, finishing in a time of 76.34 seconds for a score of 2.18.
Next up was Trevor Breen and Highland President, owned by Heather Black, whose score of 4.04 proved to be Ireland’s discard before Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz, owned by Gizmo Partners LLC, entered the arena.
One of the best combinations in world show jumping, Sweetnam and his Irish Sport Horse were jumping out of a super rhythm before a desperately unlucky four faults at the double.
Thankfully, the time was fast and didn’t massively cost Ireland, with the penalties meaning Sweetnam only added 2.87 to the tally.
McMahon was last in for Ireland with Mila, owned by Ludger Beerbaum Stables GmbH and, with pressure on, he delivered Ireland’s best round of the session.
Finishing the class in individual eighth position after a clear round in a time of 73.88 seconds means Ireland finished on a score of 6.00 and will take confidence into day two.
“Eoin was fantastic. We needed a quick, clear round from him and that’s what he gave us,” Horse Sport Ireland Show Jumping High Performance Director Blake added.
“They all performed very well, in fairness, Michael led the way with his round and I thought Shane’s horse was actually unfortunate – he jumped the double almost too well. That’s show jumping though, and we’re nicely positioned so I’m happy.”
Ahead of Blake’s team are Sweden on a score of 1.51, Aga Khan Trophy winners Switzerland on 1.92 and Germany on 5.31, but Blake takes plenty of confidence from the first day of action at the San Siro Racecourse.
“Yes, I probably expected the Swedes and the Swiss to be up there, and I probably expected a bit more from some of the teams who will probably be disappointed wit their days,” Blake continued.
“That’s championships for you – there isn’t much room for error and we’ll be looking to keep the errors down and keep going the way we’re going.”