CHIO Aachen 2024: Ireland wins the Mercedes-Benz Nations' Cup

The last time the “The Soldier’s Song”, the Irish national anthem, was played over the Holy Grass at the Soers was in 2010. Today, the time had come again. The show-jumpers from the green island were victorious in the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup 2024. And that on the 70th anniversary of the partnership between the automobile manufacturer with the star and the CHIO Aachen.

“To say that I am happy, is a total understatement. This has been on my bucket list for a while! It is an honour to be here,” said the Chef d’Équipe of Ireland, Michael Blake, radiating a certain satisfaction. With good reason too, after his team that was in fantastic form rode to victory in the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup 2024. The heroes of the evening were Denis Lynch with Vistogrand, Bertram Allen with Pacino Amiro, Shane Sweetnam with James Kann Cruz and Cian O’Connor with Fancy de Kergane. Whereby the latter only had a part-time job this evening, because he didn’t even have to compete in the second round. The Irish team had already secured themselves the gold rosette after the third rider jumped clear.

Lynch, O’Connor, Sweetnam and Allen – it is the same team that claimed the European Championship title together in 2017. Back than it had been a “shamrock”, the Irish national symbol, that had brought the team luck. And lo and behold, Bertram Allen conjured up a neatly folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket. Inside the same four-leaf clover that he had been carrying in Gothenburg, Allen assured. “I have been carrying it around with me for seven years! We are very superstitious…”

One might ask oneself whether it was the lucky charm that was mainly responsible for today’s victory or the skill of the horse and rider pairs involved. One thing is for sure, the four riders hadn’t been on a team together since Gothenburg and united again today they repeated their triumph. So it was definitely a very special victory for them: “That is the stuff that dreams are made of,” according to Shane Sweetnam. Cian O’Connor, who was also a member of the Irish team when they last won in Aachen in the year 2010 added: “It was the same adrenaline. It gets your blood racing. It is fantastic to be here! As always.”

The battle for second and third place was also thrilling. Mexico had travelled to Aachen on a wild card and the statistics of EquiRatings powered by SAP rated the team as total outsiders with only a 15-percent chance of making it onto the podium. The Brits on the other hand were at least estimated to have a 23 percent chance. Whereby their last Nations’ Cup victory was meanwhile 24 years ago. When the teams’ last rider entered the ring in the second round and Ireland was already the sure winner, it was clear: If Mexico’s and Great Britains’s final riders, Eugenio Garza Perez with Contago and Scott Brash with Hello Jefferson, jumped clear, both teams would have an overall score of four faults. Then, the time would decide who came second and who came third. And that is precisely what happened. And Mexico were faster. Their fan club on the stands went absolutely crazy as Garza Perez punched the air with his fist. It was a magical evening for him too.

“We are literally speechless. We are so grateful to the organisers for allowing us to take part. It is the most important show in the world. It is magic in every respect. To ride into this stadium gives you goosebumps. It is an amazing feeling, an adventure, a dream. We will never forget it,” is how Federico Fernandez summed up his feelings and those of his fellow team members Garza Perez, Nicolas Pizarro and Andres Azcarraga. The latter had flown in especially from Spruce Meadows. They also had an important message for their colleagues: “Thanks to the British for allowing us to come second!”

The Brits took it with dignity. Robert Whitaker summed up: “We were close to winning it. Everyone rode well and the horses jumped brilliantly. We are really happy with the result.”

And the Germans? Weren’t quite able to live up to their role as favourites that EquiRatings had predicted. Although Jana Wargers with Limbridge and the CHIO Aachen Nations’ Cup debutant Kendra Claricia Brinkop with Tabasco de Toxandria Z both jumped double clear, unfortunately André Thieme with Chakaria and Christian Kukuk with Mumbai both picked up four faults. A total of eight faults meant sixth place for the German team.

But there will be another Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup in Aachen in 2025, so they can try to win again next year. It was namely announced today that the partnership that dates back to 1954 is being extended.

Press release of the event
(Photo: CHIO Aachen)