Ireland’s Nations’ Cup hero Cian O’Connor lands Grand Prix at Ocala
Meath rider lands on Ronncco Jump’s Seringat after Florida success last week
Cian O’Connor was Ireland’s hero in Florida. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Meath’s Cian O’Connor, whose double clear secured Ireland’s Nations’ Cup victory at Ocala on Friday, landed the Grand Prix at the Florida venue on Sunday with the same horse, Ronncco Jump’s Seringat.
From 40 starters over a 1.60m track designed by Brazil’s Marina Azevedo, just three combinations progressed to the jump-off round with two pairings being denied another appearance in the ring by an expensive single time fault apiece.
Beezie Madden, who too recorded a double clear on Friday for the second-placed USA team, was first to go against the clock on Breitling LS and left all the fences intact in 41.43 seconds. Her compatriot, Ali Wolff, also went clear but her time of 41.86 with Casall meant she would finish second at best.
Both American riders had fitted in eight strides between the wall and the final oxer but O’Connor, who had the best draw in third, took one out and crossed the line in 41.22 seconds to land the €33,000 first prize on Seringat, an 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Chef Rouge. Cork’s Shane Sweetnam finished sixth with the fastest four faults on Chaqui Z.
“I don’t remember the last time I jumped double clear in the Nations’ Cup and won the Grand Prix so she (Azevedo), is now my new favourite course builder,” commented O’Connor who has based himself in Florida for the winter season.
“We bought this horse in November and he hadn’t that much experience. He jumped 1.45m outdoors and in a couple of bigger indoor classes. He is very brave, super careful and has a big jump. He was a bit hard to manoeuvre between the fences. He was good at a World Cup qualifier a few weeks ago and I put a lot of time into him before we came here to Ocala.
“The big ring suited him here, impressive jumps and the turns helped me in the first round as it didn’t let him get strong and the jump-off couldn’t have been nicer. It has been an incredible weekend and I’m so happy to cap it off with the Grand Prix win. Seringat has really improved over the last few months and will be a real Grand Prix horse for the future,” O’Connor concluded.
Further south in the sunshine state, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre in Wellington, Derry’s Daniel Coyle won the Under 25 Grand Prix riding Susan and Ariel Grange’s Simba de la Roque.
Fifteen combinations made through to the second round but only four managed to complete double clears, Coyle on the Granges’ 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Kannan winning in a time of 36.28 which was over seven seconds faster than that of the runner-up, the USA’s Hayley Barnhill on Zephire (43.884).
At Vejer de la Frontera in Spain, one of four venues on the Iberian Peninsula where large numbers of Irish show jumpers are presently competing, Wexford’s Bertram Allen won Saturday’s Small Grand Prix with Ballywalter Farms’ 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood High Valley.
At home, the second leg of the Connolly’s Red Mills/Showjumpers Club spring tour was held at the Cavan Equestrian Centre where Craughwell’s Sven Hadley doubled up on his win seven days earlier with the family-owned Sumas Taloubet.