Ocala, Fla. – Feb. 19, 2017 – After anchoring Team Ireland to a gold medal finish in Friday’s $100,000 FEI Nations Cup™ CSIO4*, Cian O’Connor came through in the clutch once again on Sunday to earn the win in the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix CSI4* aboard new mount Seringat, owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd., at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida.
“I haven’t gone against the clock on this horse before so I didn’t know how that was going to work out because he can get quite strong. It’s amazing to win,” said O’Connor.
Although the 11-year-old Selle Français gelding is a new partnership for O’Connor, the pair undoubtedly showcased their potential to be top contenders at the grand prix level at HITS Ocala this week. Just two weeks ago, they finished seventh in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington CSI3*-W at the Palm Beach Masters.
“We bought the horse in November and he didn’t have that much experience,” said O’Connor. “He was jumping at 1.45m level outdoors and was competing in a couple of bigger indoor classes. He is very brave, super careful, has a big jump but is sometimes hard to maneuver between the fences. He was good in the World Cup qualifier at Deeridge a few weeks ago. I have put a lot of effort into him the past few weeks because I knew we would be on the Nations Cup team here and I wanted to do well.”
The Ocala Horse Properties Grand Prix Stadium played host to 39 international athletes on Sunday afternoon, all looking to claim the week’s coveted grand prix title and prize money.
Marina Azevedo built a tough track at 1.60m in height, which only saw three jump clear in the first round to return for the jump-off. The same three would also go on to jump double-clear rounds.
“I think it was a little tough,” said Azevedo. “The course had many rails at different places so, for me, I think it was good. I expected five clear rounds. They jumped very well in the Nations Cup on Friday so I was thinking five, but three is okay. You never know.”
Beezie Madden (USA) was the first to jump clear in the first round with Abigail Wexner’s Breitling LS. Madden and O’Connor were the only athletes to jump all clear rounds this weekend between the two rounds of Nations Cup competition on Friday and two rounds in the grand prix on Sunday. All of Sunday’s top three finishers were separated by only tenths of a second.
Madden returned to kick-off the tiebreaker and set the pace to beat at 41.43 seconds. Ali Wolff and Blacklick Bend Farm’s Casall, the USA’s reserve combination in Friday’s Nations Cup, followed Madden with another clear effort but stopped the timers just four tenths of a second behind Madden in 41.86 seconds.
“Going first is a difficult spot especially since there were only three in the jump-off,” said Madden. “It’s a lot easier if there are 12 because it goes so fast and it’s easy. I wanted to set it up so that it would be fast enough and the other riders would have to take some risks to catch me.”
After this week’s top performances, Breitling LS is beginning to step up to the plate with Madden and prove his competitiveness in the grand prix ring.
“[Breitling LS] had a tough beginning,” said Madden. “He was a green 7-year-old that we brought back from Europe. Because another horse on the airplane tested positive for something on his way to the U.S., he spent weeks standing in a stall at the end of his 7-year-old year and after that there was nothing left to do. During spring of his 8-year-old year I broke my collarbone. He is 11 now but not quite as experienced as an 11-year-old should be. I think now he is getting more consistent.”
O’Connor was the final competitor to take on the short course and bested Madden’s time for the win by two tenths of a second in 41.22 seconds, while Madden finished with second place honors and Wolff rounded out the top three.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to be fast enough for the blue — you know how fast Beezie is,” said O’Connor. “I bet she was hoping I would have a rail down. If she had been last in the jump-off she would have beat me. I don’t remember the last time I went double-clear in a Nations Cup and won the grand prix in the same week!”
$100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix CSI4*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Seringat / Cian O’Connor / IRL / 0 | 76.80 / 0 | 41.22
2. Breitling LS / Elizabeth Madden / USA / 0 | 79.45 / 0 | 41.43
3. Casall / Ali Wolff / USA / 0 | 76.90 / 0 | 41.86
4. Cescha M / Isabelle Lapierre / CAN / 1 | 81.96
5. Ricore Courcelle / Emanuel Andrade / VEN / 1 | 83.86
6. Chaqui Z / Shane Sweetnam / IRL / 4 | 76.34
7. Dixson / Ian Millar / CAN / 4 | 76.37
8. Cadalora P / Tiffany Foster / CAN / 4 | 77.16
9. Cornet / Lauren Hough / USA / 4 | 77.65
10. Win for Life / Christine Tribble McCrea / USA / 4 | 77.82
11. Rothchild / McLain Ward / USA / 4 | 77.97
12. Ace / Alison Robitaille / USA / 4 | 78.06