Monday 23 April 2018

Showstoppers... all-female American team lift trophy after faultless display

The American team, from left to right, Lillie Keenan, Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut and Elizabeth Madden celebrate with the Aga Khan trophy after winning the Nations Cup
The American team, from left to right, Lillie Keenan, Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut and Elizabeth Madden celebrate with the Aga Khan trophy after winning the Nations Cup
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

The sound of the 'Star Spangled Banner' rang out around the RDS shortly before 6pm yesterday as President Michael D Higgins presented the trophy to the American team.

It was a day of thrills and spills at the Dublin Horse Show as the prestigious FEI Nations Cup caused some heart-stopping moments.

But while spirits were high among spectators who were getting their weekend off to an early start, there was disappointment for Ireland after being denied a win in the biggest team competition of the week.

It was a case of girl power for the all-female US team, who put paid to their rivals and jumped into first position to claim the coveted Aga Khan trophy.

Cian O’Connor on Good Luck jumps a fence at the RDS yesterday Picture: Sportsfile
Cian O’Connor on Good Luck jumps a fence at the RDS yesterday Picture: Sportsfile

The team included Lillie Keenan, who is Cian O'Connor's protégé and clocked up an initial clear round followed by five faults in the second. Her result was discounted to give America the overall perfect result of zero, with France finishing in second place. A very promising first round saw Ireland sailing through to the second round, after ending up in joint first position with the USA. Things took a turn for the worse in the second, with Ireland's team clocking up 17 faults, giving them a final result of fifth.

America's flawless performance ended with Laura Kraut's double clear aboard Confu, sending them soaring to the top of the Longines leaderboard as they replicated their 2014 victory in the competition.

Around 25,000 people poured through the gates of the RDS on the third day of the annual event for a fun-filled day while also watching some of the world's best showjumpers battling it out. Although temperatures were balmy, the occasional shower sent the crowds scurrying for cover, only for the sun to burst through minutes later.

Business was brisk around the venue as the crowds checked out some of the other equine events in action.

President Michael D Higgins Picture: Sportsfile
President Michael D Higgins Picture: Sportsfile

It was standing room only in the Champagne tent, where prices for a bottle of bubbly started at a mere €100, while stands selling strawberries and cream and fish and chips were doing a roaring trade.

Over in Simmonscourt, Lorenzo 'The Flying Frenchman' was attracting a large number of admiring fillies of the two-legged variety as they watched the Gallic charmer's dare-devil stunt riding.

Double-jobbing for the day was Sports Minister Shane Ross, who was cutting it fine with his daily schedule.

He had a bird's-eye view of all the action in the main arena as he joined a dapper crowd dressed in morning suits in the President's Box, before heading to Farmleigh for a 7pm reception for those volunteering at the Women's Rugby World Cup.

Cheering on her brother from the side-lines was model and blogger Pippa O'Connor, who said it was always a nerve-wracking experience watching him compete.

"I would be nervous watching him but he's a pretty cool character anyway," she said.

Also opting to make a family day of it was former Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll, who was in relaxed form as he mingled with attendees.

Given that his actress wife Amy Huberman was busy filming for series two of RTÉ's 'Striking Out', he was busy with their two children Billy (2) and Sadie (4). Although he said he was just having "a day with the kids", he was more than happy to sign autographs for some awe-struck fans.

And it was a family affair of a different kind for Kilkenny's Eddie Moloney and his nine-year-old daughter Emily, who were both competing in different classes at this year's event.

Attention turns today towards the Land Rover Puissance, ahead of the Longines International Grand Prix tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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