By Mike Dunne
Italy’s Lorenzo De Luca broke Irish hearts in the Longines Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show this afternoon when partnering his Nations Cup horse Ensor de Litrange Lxii to a thrilling victory after a dramatic jump-off.
Only four combinations had successfully negotiated the first round, and with two Irish riders among them, hopes were high of a home triumph.
First into the decider was American Audrey Coulter on Capital Colnardo who returned with four faults in 48.79 after clipping the sixth fence. There was huge anticipation as Shane Breen and Golden Hawk then went in chase of the target and the Irish rider delighted the home fans when going clear to take the lead in a time of 48.07.
However, with Italian riders getting in Ireland’s way all week, in particular De Luca, no one was taking a home win for granted, and with the horse that had jumped double clear in the Aga Khan he delivered again with a clear in a time of 47.44 to move into first place.
It left just Cian O’Connor and Good Luck, who had been equally good in the Nations Cup, to swing it back Ireland’s way. One could have been fairly confident of a clear round from the pairing, but the question was more about how fast they could get there. Yet the outcome was nothing that anyone would have been predicted – a run-out at the second last fence, leaving the spectators stunned once again to see Irish chances of a big prize evaporate in the most unlikely of circumstances, just as happened in the Nations Cup jump-off when Denis Lynch’s All Star did the same at the last fence.
O’Connor and Good Luck resumed the round and stayed clear but the four faults and time used up meant they had to be content with fourth.
Heart-break again for Ireland but there was no denying that De Luca was a worthy champion. A Nations Cup win, four individual wins before today and now the Grand Prix, add up to an almost unbelievable Dublin Horse Show haul for the Italian. Rider of the Tournament doesn’t seem to go close enough to honouring a week like that.