Italy’s chances of qualifying for this year’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in September were given a huge boost when they claimed the Aka Khan trophy in the team event at Dublin a week ago after a jump-off with Ireland. Today they can finish the job in the Nations Cup at Hickstead, which is the last round of the league series and the last chance to qualify for the Final, writes Mike Dunne.
The Italians have three of the squad which won in Dublin on today’s team, including Lorenzo De Luca, who was in awesome form last week. He will ride Ensor de Litrange Lxii, with whom he scored a double-clear in the Aga Khan and produced another two clears when winning the Grand Prix (pictured). Also lining out again is their Olympic reserve Piergiorgio Bucci with Casallo Z, and Emilio Bicocchi with Ares. The Italian quartet is completed by Gianni Govoni, who competed in Dublin but not in the Nations Cup, riding Antonio.
Italy don’t need to win again today – in fact a top six finish would see them through, but it will be a highly competitive event and no doubt the champions of Dublin will be on their toes again.
Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden are already qualified from this division of the nations cup league, and there are four more spots to be decided today between Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland.
The Swiss are in good position to qualify, but Belgium have struggled in the league and would need a massive result today to progress, so it is shaping up to be a battle for three places between Germany, Great Britain, Italy and France. The French campaign was completed in Dublin, where they did poorly, so all they can do today is watch from the sidelines and hope results go their way.
No such anxieties for Ireland who already have their ticket to the Barcelona Final booked. Robert Splaine’s team have been drawn first to jump and will be led by Bertram Allen with Molly Malone, followed by Billy Twomey (Diaghilev), Anthony Condon (Aristio) and Shane Breen (Golden Hawk).
Jumping order Hickstread Nations Cup (2.15pm): Ireland; Switzerland; Netherlands; USA; Italy; Germany; Belgium; Great Britain.