By Catie Staszak for tbird
Langley, BC – Ireland is at home at Thunderbird Show Park.
Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake’s squad has made the podium in every Nations Cup event since 2017, and they recorded a second win in that span Sunday at Thunderbird Show Park, running away with the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada.
“Every result here is special,” Blake said. “It took me a year to figure out how to win, but we haven’t been off the podium. We’ve had mixed teams here. We’ve had to cajole people onto teams here. But this year we prioritized this event.”
The four-man squad of Daniel Coyle (Legacy), Andrew Bourns (Sea Topblue), Shane Sweetnam (James Kann Cruz) and Conor Swail (Count Me In) positively dominated the feature event of the Odlum Brown BC Open and the only qualifier in the country for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals in Barcelona (ESP) this fall. Coyle, Bourns and Sweetnam each contributed a clear round for their team, which put Ireland so far ahead in the second round that team anchor Conor Swail—tbird’s winningest rider—did not have to jump a second time. Ultimately, the group finished on a total score of 5. Mexico rallied in the second round to finish second (13 faults), with Australia third (22).
“Obviously we have got good depth, and I’m so lucky to have such a good bunch of people,” Blake said. “It’s very easy to drive a good car, and we’ve got one here.”
Ireland last won the event in 2018, and both Coyle and Swail were on that squad. In the years since, Coyle has placed among the top 10 individually at the European Championships, while Swail has risen to the fifth ranked rider in the world on the prestigious Longines rankings. Olympic veteran Sweetnam, riding exciting 9-year-old James Kann Cruz, and Bourns, with his family’s protege Seatop Blue joined the lineup for 2022 and produced the team’s best scores. Seatop Blue—scouted by Bourns’ family as a foal—produced just one of two double-clear rounds on the day, while James Kann Cruz had just a single time fault in the second round.
“My father is here, so it’s a real family affair,” Bourns said. “I have to say, [Sea Topblue] is just as part of the family as I am.“
“[James Kann Cruz] probably could go and jump anywhere, but he’s still only 9, [and] he still has his green moments,” Sweetnam added. “He’s experienced without being too much so, and I thought this would be a good place [to step up].“
For Bourns, avoiding complacency was the objective in the second round, when Ireland had two rails in hand. Mexico also added just one time penalty in the second round, but Ireland’s early lead was insurmountable.
“You’ve got to be careful—for me anyway—in the Nations Cup not to get too complacent in the second round. We had a great first round, but a lot of other teams got stronger in the second round,” Bourns said. “We had to come back just as strong.”
They didn’t let off the gas, and while it wasn’t the home team’s day, Canada’s fourth-place finish secured their qualification for Nations Cup Finals after their runner-up effort in Mexico in March. Mexico, who took a home win that day, also qualified, cementing themselves as divisions leaders.
“I thought America and Canada would bring the best they could up here,” Blake said. “This is very important. It’s the year of the [World Championships] for us, and this is a step well taken.”
A little rain on the expansive grass field that makes up tbird’s Fort Grand Prix Arena certainly didn’t hurt.
“If you knew it was going to be raining and on grass, I think Ireland would be a good bet,” said tbird President Chris Pack. “We’re very appreciative of all the teams that came, and especially Ireland, putting this as a priority.”
$400,000 CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Legacy / Daniel Coyle / IRL / Ariel Grange & Daniel Coyle / (4)/0
1. Sea Topblue / Andrew Bourns / IRL / Andrew Bourns & QBS Equestrian / 0/0
1. James Kann Cruz / Shane Sweetnam / IRL /Gizmo Partners LLC / 0/1
1. Count Me In / Conor Swail / IRL / Mannon Farm, Sandy Lupton / 4/DNS
2. Pia Contra / Nicolas Pizarro / MEX / Alberto Lavalle, Jose Pablo Cortina Cordero, Rocio Paola Barriga Colsa / 4/0
2. Victor Finn Dh Z / Eugenio Garza Perez / MEX / David Gatza & Monica Garza / 4/0
2. Babel / Patricio Pasquel / MEX / Patricio Pasquel / (12)/(4)
2. Hortensia van de Leeuwerk / Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane / MEX / Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane / 4/1
3. Django II / Katie Laurie / AUS / Katie Laurie / 1/6
3. Eurostar / James Arkins / AUS / Arkins Pastoral PTY Ltd., MT Farming Pty Ltd / 0/0
3. Dandy / Matt Williams / AUS / Hd Horses, LLC / (12)/7
3. Billy Guilder / Rowan Willis / AUS / Peter Moore, Rowan Willis / 8/(14)
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