Wellington, FL – January 11, 2020 – Irish Olympic bronze medalist Cian O’Connor won the $75,000 Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix riding Lazzaro Delle Schiave to close out opening week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Sunday, January 12, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.
From a 46-horse field, 17 advanced to the jump-off of the Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix set by course designer Eric Hasbrouck (USA). Returning sixth, O’Connor and 11-year-old Italian Sporthorse gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave gave it all they had, stopping the clock in a time of 35.956 seconds. The time would eventually take the victory by less than a half a second over runner-up Molly Ashe Cawley riding Balous Day Date, owned by Louisburg Farm, to a time of 36.455 seconds.
“We went early and I knew there were some fast ones and good ones behind me, so I took out a few strides, particularly to the last, and really used my horse’s strength there,” said O’Connor, who has settled in Wellington for the duration of the season with his three top horses. “The course was fast and a nice test for the rest of the circuit.”
Lilly Goldstein and Fenway Claim Championship in Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under
WEF hunter competition came to a close during week 1 with Lilly Goldstein and Fenway earning champion in the Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under. Goldstein hails from Argyle, TX and rode her horse Fenway to two firsts, two thirds, and a sixth-place ribbon to earn the tri-color.
Fenway is owned by Goldstein, and proved himself to the judges by winning the hack and staying consistent throughout both days of the division. “The judges really liked him! He jumped very nice and was super smooth during our rounds,” Goldstein said of her horse’s performance.
(L to R) Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Darragh Kenny, and Cian O’Connor. (FEI/Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2019 came to thrilling climax, and it was Irish eyes that were smiling when Rodrigo Pessoa’s team of Peter Moloney, Paul O’Shea, Darragh Kenny, and Cian O’Connor clinched victory in fine style. Completing with just a single time fault, they pinned the defending champions from Belgium into runner-up spot while Sweden lined up in third. And to put the icing on the Irish cake, they also collected the Olympic qualifying spot they have been craving for a very long time.
Brilliant course-building by Spain’s Santiago Varela, who will also be presenting the tracks in Tokyo next summer, ensured another nail-biting afternoon during which it was impossible to predict the destiny of the coveted series trophy until the very last moment. But the Irish had already booked their Tokyo tickets before anchorman O’Connor went into the ring.
A single mistake from pathfinder Moloney and Chianti’s Champion at the massive triple combination three from home was followed by a superb clear from O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu. So when Kenny and Balou du Reventon collected just that single time fault then the road to Tokyo was already closed to their rivals from Colombia and Italy.
And then O’Connor turned a great day into an amazing one with a foot-perfect run from PSG Final because that put pressure on the Belgians for the Longines series title. The newly crowned European champions posted clears from Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Extra) and Jerome Guery (Quel Homme de Hus) and were looking good for their second victory in a row. One more clean run from anchorman Gregory Wathelet and MJT Nevados would clinch it because they could drop the unlucky four picked up by Niels Bruynseels and Jenson van’t Meulenhof at the very last fence. But, to gasps of disbelief from the crowd, Wathelet’s stallion uncharacteristically ducked out at the penultimate vertical, so Bruynseels’ four had to be counted and that would only be good enough for second place.
“We had a very clear objective coming here; the riders were super-focused and the horses were in great shape. Today we expected a very tough fight from Italy and Colombia who were our direct opponents (for Tokyo qualification), but as it happened, we were also holding strong against the big countries like Belgium and others. People sometimes don’t realise the pressure the riders are under to bring this qualification home. The weight of their country was on their shoulders; it was a big ask from them and to do it in the style they did it – hats off to them!”– Rodrigo Pessoa (Chef d’Equipe Team Ireland)
O’Connor, a member of the last Olympic team fielded by Ireland in Athens (GRE) in 2004, pointed out that the Longines title was always in their sights this week. “Our aim was to win this trophy all along; obviously the Olympic qualification was also our goal, but you don’t come here just to qualify – we came here to win, and by doing so we got the bonus of qualification!” he said. And the team honoured one of the members of that 2004 Irish side, Kevin Babington, who finished individually fourth with the great Carling King that year and who experienced a life-changing accident four weeks ago, by wearing armbands bearing his name this week.
Pessoa was delighted with the spirit shown by his riders. “With teams there are good days and bad days… there’s a lot of chemistry, but the most important thing is that on the day it really counts, everyone sticks together and pulls the same way. People can leave their personal issues on the side and really pull for the country and that’s what happened here. I’m really proud of what they did today!”
Kenny said he realised how important his ride was. “I was a bit nervous going in the ring but I’m very lucky. I’ve an incredible horse; he’s absolutely amazing and he tried so hard. On Thursday he jumped an incredible clear and today I was just trying to make sure I left all the jumps up. Unfortunately, Santi [Santiago Varela, course designer] told me that I was the only person to get a time fault! My goal coming here was to try and do a double-clear, to try and get Ireland to Tokyo – that was the most important thing, and I’m glad I could be part of this great team. We were all fighting together; that was the most important thing,” he added.
That one time fault cost him a share of the €100,000 bonus for double-clear rounds that instead was divided between Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts and Germany’s Daniel Deusser.
There was a great sense of satisfaction for Pessoa. “We already had two disciplines qualified (Dressage and Eventing) but it’s been a long time since Ireland, a great equestrian nation, has been at the Olympics Games in showjumping and it was this team’s responsibility to bring it home. That for me was the most stressful thing today, to feel what they felt and how hard it must have been for them to ride in those conditions. They had such a great mental attitude – nothing could have stopped them from achieving what they did. I was called in a few years ago to do a job (achieve Olympic Jumping qualification) so now it’s mission accomplished!” he said.
Ocala, FL (February 20, 2017): The curtain on the CSIO4* week at HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, came to a thrilling close on Sunday with a jump-off battle in the $100,000 FEI City of Ocala Grand Prix. Hot off the win with Team Ireland in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup™, Cian O’Connor prevailed aboard Seringat, owned by Ronnoco Jump LTD., with another top title in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
“After winning the Nations Cup with the team and then coming back today to win again, it’s a great feeling. The course designer [Marina Azevedo] designed both courses that I won on, so I love her courses,” laughed O’Connor in the post-victory press conference. “I like the arena [in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium]; the ground is perfect. The jumps are different and impressive. Plus, there’s lots of room to work your horses in Ocala – it was no doubt a great week of competition.”
With a little luck, and a lot of skill, O’Connor returned as the final contender in the three-horse jump-off to once again take the victory under pressure. Olympic gold-medalist and Team USA rider Beezie Madden took home the second-place prize and young talent Ali Wolff, Team USA’s alternate rider in the Nations Cup, raked in third place.
Interestingly, both O’Connor and Madden were the only riders to garner double clear rounds for their respective countries in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup™.
“Having a great week of sport like this is pretty special, so my hats off to the HITS Team and to the riders sitting to my right [Cian and Beezie], two of the very best,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “We’re lucky to have super sponsors, like The City of Ocala and Longines, and of course the support from Marion County.”
Forty-four decorated riders, including the likes of McLain Ward, Ian Millar, and Kevin Babington, tested the course of 13 jumping efforts set at 1.60m by Marina Azevedo of Sao Paulo, Brazil, but time would prove a factor early on in the class and the top three would prove themselves to advance to the jump-off.
The jump-off was speedy, with O’Connor, Madden and Wolff all claiming clear rounds but separated by only tenths of a second.
First to tour the abbreviated course was Madden riding Breitling LS, owned by Abigail Wexner. The pair had the first clear trip in the first round, slating them as the first trip into the jump-off.
“Going in first can be a difficult spot especially when there are only three in the jump-off, there needs to be a little strategy. If there’s 12 in the jump-off, you just go for it and go fast,” said Madden with a grin. “I wanted to set my trip up taking a few risks to be fast so it would be hard to catch us. In hindsight, I could have done the seven [strides] from the wall to the oxer safely, that might have cost me those four-tenths of a second.”
They finished their jump-off trip fault-free in 41.43, to the sound of the crowd’s cheers, to set the tone for Wolff to follow and then O’Connor.
Wolff entered next with Casall, owned by Blacklick Bend Farm. They powered toward the finish as the clock wound down, the crowd on the edge of their seats. They would stop the clock with all of the rails up but their time of 41.86 would ultimately settle them in a well-fought third place.
O’Connor was last to challenge, and just like his exhilarating anchor ride for the Irish on Friday, he and Seringat were back to perform under the pressure. There was one shot, and O’Connor laid it all on the line with his chestnut gelding. They opted for the seven strides from the wall to the oxer, the same track that Madden opted to play it safe in eight strides, shaving crucial time off the clock. They passed the timers in a cool, clear 41.22 to secure the win.
The crowd roared to life and a terrific week of FEI competition at HITS Post Time Farm had gone out with sparks in the air.
Fourth place went to Isabelle Lapierre [CAN] aboard Cesha M. They nearly passed into the jump-off with a single first-round time fault. Emanuel Andrade [VEN] would too be foiled by a single time penalty with his bay Holsteiner, Ricore Courcelle, settling them into fifth place.
Up next for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is an FEI CSI2* week, February 22-26. Then, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix culminates the exciting circuit on Sunday, March 26. For more information on the Great American Million, please visit HitsShows.com.
Conor Swail and Fortis Fortuna (Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography)
Wellington, Florida (February 14, 2016) – In one of its busiest shows yet this season, week 5 of The Ridge at Wellington’s Turf Tour series combined world-class competition and ideal weather as Olympians, amateurs, juniors, and young horses vied for top honors on Wednesday and Friday, February 10 and 12, 2016. Irish riders rode to top finishes across the major divisions, including the Grand Prix and 1.30-1.35m divisions, as Darragh Kenny, Cian O’Connor, and Conor Swail dominated the standings to make it a true Irish sweep.
With a backdrop of the verdant polo fields of the International Polo Club, the fast and accurate pair of Conor Swail and Fortus Fortuna, owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, delivered the winning ride in the $15,000 Grand Prix on Friday, over a course designed by Nick Granat. His double clear effort was contested by only a handful others, while his jump off time of 36.078 proved unbeatable in the course of the day. Another Irish native and 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Cian O’Connor, took reserve honors with a final jump off time of 38.161 aboard his own Enriques of the Lowlands. O’Connor also took fourth place with Duke of Carnival behind two-time US Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward and HH Ashley. 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist Beat Mandli of Switzerland settled into fifth with Grant Road Partners’ Celina, followed by 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Maher and Jane Forbes Clark’s Aristo Z in 6th, Stephen Moore and Teddy Vlock’s Team de Couquerie in 7th, and Cathrine Dinan aboard Grant Road Partner’s Galan S in 8th. Maher, who has competed on the Turf Tour for the past three weeks, has made use of the venues and divisions to prepare the experienced Aristo Z for bigger classes later in the season. “We had a holiday towards the end of last year, and have been using a few classes here to build him up for the bigger Grand Prix next week,” stated Maher. “[The Turf Tour] is great, a nice change from what is on offer, with a relaxed environment and excellent venues. It’s been great for me so far this year.”
To round out the Irish dominance during week 6, Darragh Kenny and Gatsby, owned by Toffolon Partners, LLC, won both of the 1.30-1.35m classes, with Beth Underhill aboard Cadermie and Edward Levy aboard Starlette de la Roque taking the reserve in each class. Granat’s designs in the Grand Prix and 1.30-1.35m made excellent use of the expansive turf course, and was intended to present a challenge that relied upon the use of strong basics and tactful riding to adjust between the first round and jump off. Thanks to the generosity of the Turf Tour’s newest sponsor, Bright’s Creek, the winner of Friday’s Junior/Amateur Owner Classic and Grand Prix will receive a 3-day, 2-night trip to their beautiful destination in the mountains of North Carolina. From equestrian activities and fine dining to luxury accommodations and an exclusive BMW Off Road Excursion through 7.2 miles of wilderness trails, hardwood forests, and ancient rock formations, the Turf Tour’s competition now have even more reason to put their best foot forward as Bright Creek will be sponsoring the Grand Prix and Junior/Amateur Owner Classic through the rest of the season. For more information visit the Bright’s Creek website.
In addition to the Grand Prix and 1.30-1.35m divisions, the second arena featured Low, Medium, and High Schooling Jumpers, 5-, 6-, and 7-Year-Old Jumper classes and qualifiers, a Junior/Adult Amateur Classic, and Speed/Jump Off classes. Intended to act as a catalyst for the growth and development of horses and riders, the Turf Tour combines breathtaking venues with amenities as world class as the riders to consistently draw some of the top competitors in Wellington. Week Seven of the Turf Tour will again take place on the beautiful grounds of the International Polo Club on Wednesday and Friday, February 17 and 19, 2016.
Lausanne (SUI), 4 January 2016 – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has today dismissed the appeal by Irish athlete Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland and upheld the decision rendered by the FEI Appeal Committee following an on-course incident at the FEI European Jumping Championships in Aachen (GER) on 21 August 2015.
“I am happy that the CAS has confirmed the decision of the FEI Appeal Committee,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said after receiving today’s ruling. “This was a field of play issue that was covered by FEI rules, so the CAS ruling upholding the decision made at the time is an important one for the FEI.”
The appeal to CAS was lodged by Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland on 11 September 2015 and a hearing took place in Lausanne (SUI) on 16 December 2015.
The appeal resulted from an incident in which a member of the arena fence crew ran across the track as O’Connor was turning towards the 11th fence during the team Final at the FEI European Jumping Championships 2015 in Aachen. The horse Good Luck hit the fence to complete the course on four faults.
Cian O’Connor and the Irish chef d’equipe Robert Splaine lodged a protest immediately after the class, but the Ground Jury ruled that the result would stand. A subsequent appeal to the Appeal Committee later that night was rejected and the Ground Jury decision was upheld.
Today’s CAS ruling means that the results from Aachen remain unchanged, with Ireland finishing seventh overall. The full award, complete with reasons for the decision, will be issued at a later stage.
Ireland’s Cian O’ Connor and Good Luck win the 2015 Live Oak International CSI2*W Grand Prix and World Cup Qualifier (Photos courtesy of www.PicsOfYou.com)
Ocala, Florida (March 22, 2015) — It wasn’t luck but extraordinary riding that brought Cian O’Connor to the top of the leader boards in the Live Oak International CSI2*W Grand Prix and World Cup Qualifier on Saturday afternoon. The two-time Irish Olympian confessed that Adena Springs’ nine year-old Belgian Warmblood, Good Luck, not only lived up to his name but did so while jumping “like a stag.”
“He’s never jumped on grass before. We got him in November with the aim of getting to the Olympics and wanted to bring him to Live Oak because we wanted to get him jumping on grass, like in Europe. We’ll stay in Germany for the summer and compete in France, Belgium, Holland, then Dublin and Canada in August before — hopefully — the European Championships,” O’Connor explained after his victory.
“I’m grateful to my entire team this weekend for always going the extra mile. This has been his biggest performance and best result so far,” added the 35-year-old Dublin Horse Show Aga Khan Trophy winner and member of 96 Irish Nations Cup teams. O’Connor and the Canturo-bred bay gelding, who were the last go of the day, earned their victory gallop on a flawless 56-second round in the jump-off.
The only rider from the international field of 42 out of 46 to also complete course designer Leopoldo Palacios’ first round fault-free and under time was four-time U.S. Equestrian Federation Equestrian of the Year Elizabeth ‘Beezie’ Madden, who finished reserve in the jump-off with Abigail Wexner’s 13-year-old Dutch (Nabab de Reve x Via Volo van de Moldendreef) Warmblood mare, Vanilla, posting four faults during their 48.32-second effort.
“We went in and focused on riding our round,” said Madden, 51, who in 2014 became the first equestrian in history to win Hickstead’s prestigious King George Gold Cup and is the first female show jumper ever to pass the $1 million mark in earnings.
“And,” she added with a grin, “put the pressure on Cian.”
Pressure was in ample abundance as the 14-element first round challenged horses and riders to rise to the occasion. After the first six were unable to meet an original time allowed (85 seconds), show jumping event director Damian Guthrie made an adjustment to 90 seconds. It was still more than a dozen entries into the Grand Prix before Australia’s Scott Keach, riding Viriato for Southern Cross Equestrian, would deliver the first effort that left all the rails in their cups (yet still incurred two time faults), followed by Manuel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, who had the time but at the cost of two rails.
American entry Kirsten Coe, riding Lovsta Tuteri’s Hanoverian (Contendro x Grannina) stallion, Czardas 30, cleared the rails but at a scant one fault over the time allowed for a 92.36 finish — which still earned the duo third place honors and a stride closer to the World Cup.
“The course was difficult but I’ve been waiting four long days for this class,” Coe said. “Our league isn’t over yet!”
“It was difficult to go clean, yes,” added O’Connor, “but that’s what a World Cup qualifier is supposed to do. Good horses, like good cream, will rise to the top.”
Rounding out the top 12 respectively from the first round were Australia’s fourth-placed Keach and Viriato (4/95.42), followed by an all-American cast to complete the ribbons: Brianne Goutal and Ballade van het Indihof (4/86.58); Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ (4/86.79); Richard Fellers and Flexible (4/88.65); Charlie Jacobs and Flaming Star (4/88.80); Jessica Springsteen and Davendy S (4/89.49); Springsteen’s coach, Laura Kraut and Nouvelle (4/90.01); Callan Solem and VDL Wizard (4/90.81); and Vinton Karrasch and Coral Reef Follow Me II (5/92.37).
O’Connor’s victory keeps him at the top of the standings in the Live Oak International $10,000 E2 Leading Rider Award and sets the stage for an exciting conclusion on Sunday with the $34,000 CSI2* Hollow Creek Farm Winning Round at 2:00 p.m.
Angel Karolyi and Wings soared to the win in the Pasmore Stables Power & Speed 1.35m class in 36.98 seconds. (Photos courtesy of www.PicsofYou.com)
Angel Karolyi Proves He Has “Wings” to Win the Pasmore Stables 1.35m and Cian O’Connor Raises the Bar to Win the 1.40m Waldron Private Wealth Management Welcome Speed Stake
Ocala, FL (March 21, 2015) — A cool breeze and blazing string of performances marked opening day of international CSI2*-W show jumping competition at Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida, the ‘Horse Capital of America.’ Two of the world’s top riders swapped top spots in the afternoon’s title events.
Marking the first win of the 2015 show jumping program was defending $34,000 CSI2* Hollow Creek Farm Winning Round 2014 winner, Angel Karolyi of Venezuela, who soared above a field of 38 in the Pasmore Stables Power & Speed 1.35m class. Karolyi achieved a penalty-free performance in 36.98 seconds riding McLain Ward’s 17-year-old chestnut KWPN (Lexicon x Columbus) gelding, Wings.
“Live Oak is proof that, if you produce a quality horse show, people will support it,” said Karolyi, who rides for Hollow Creek Farm. “Chester Weber, Juliet Reid, and the Live Oak team do a great job working in the best interests of the competitors, spectators, and sport as a whole.”
Finishing second to Karolyi in the 1.35 m Power & Speed was Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, who had a clean 37.89-second ride over the Leopoldo Palacios course on Andrea Quadros’ bay 10-year-old gelding, Chandon Blue (Chaco-Blue x Landcapitol). Later that afternoon, O’Connor claimed his own win in the Waldron Private Wealth Management Welcome Speed Stake.
O’Connor dominated the 1.40m Welcome Stake on Adena Springs Quidam’s Cherie, 10-year-old bay Oldenburg mare (Quidam’s Rubin x Lifestyle). The pair established a 60.56 fault-free second lead early in the 58-rider field. That lead remained unthreatened until Karolyi, 39th in the line-up, took his turn over the fences.
“I thought I had nothing left,” Karolyi remarked with a smile and shake of his head while exiting the in-gate on Raylyn Far’s 13-year-old bay KWPN mare Venus (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Julius), clearly pleased with a clean go. The pair crossed the timers in 61.17 seconds, not quite enough to catch O’Connor, but enough to build a four-second lead that would be impossible to beat by other competitors and would earn Karolyi a second place finish to O’Connor in the class.
Fifty-six horse-and-rider combinations did their best to break the pair’s lock on the top slots. Canada’s Nicole Walker came in third (65.22/0) on her 11-year-old Diamond de Semi-bred Westfalian Dek de Landetta Z. The highest placed United States rider was Chloe Reid, who came in fourth (65.63/0) on her 10-year-old KWPN mare, Athena. Reid is proud to carry on the tradition of excellence at Live Oak International, as she is the daughter of Live Oak International president Juliet W. Reid and the niece of Live Oak International president Chester C. Weber. Reid also earned ninth place (68.27/0) in the Welcome Stake on her Indoctro-bred KWPN stallion, Victor E, and was joined in the top ten by fellow Americans David Beisel, seventh (66.78/0) on KWPN stallion Ameretto; Schuyler Riley, eighth (68.23/0) on Wolfstone Stable’s Dobra de Porceyo; and Callan Solem, tenth with Horseshoe Trail Farm’s KWPN gelding, VDL Wizard. Rounding out the international riders in its top ten were Guatemalan entry Christina Heurtematte, fifth (66.09/0) on Holala Z; and Spain’s Paulo Santana Filho, sixth (66.39/0) on Taloubet.
Saturday’s schedule truly promises the best grand prix performances in the world, as nearly two dozen nations will be represented in the $50,000 CSI2*-W Live Oak International Grand Prix at 2:00 p.m. Competitors include O’Connor, a two-time Olympian who earned Bronze for his native Ireland at the 2012 London Games, and American rising star Jessica Springsteen, honored in 2014 with the Maxine Beard Award as well as earning the Leading International Jumper Rider Award at the Washington International Horse Show.
Prior to that World Cup qualifier, the Live Oak International begins at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning with the fast-paced action and dynamic reinsmanship of combined driving’s marathon phase — the second of three legs of competition to crown the top horse and pony Single, Pair and Four-in-Hand competitors in FEI and Intermediate divisions.
Outside the arena, Saturday and Sunday will also feature family-friendly fun with a Kids’ Horseless Jumping Competition at noon on both days, Parelli Horsemanship Demonstrations on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., and the Sleepy P Ranch Leadline Class at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
For results, live-streaming coverage, and more about Ocala’s most beloved annual equestrian tradition, please visit www.liveoakinternational.com.
Chester Weber and his team on course in the marathon. (Photo courtesy of PicsofYou.com)
Ocala, FL (March 23, 2014) – The motto on its show program, Chase Perfection, Catch Excellence, perfectly encapsulated this year’s Live Oak International, March 20-23, at Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, FL, as history was made in U.S. National Four-in-Hand competition, Olympic Show Jumping champions converged, and Super Bowl stars of both the commercial TV screen and stadium met in one superlative week of competition in front of a record 10,000 fans.
Writing yet another chapter in American combined driving history, Chester Weber of Ocala, FL, defended his U.S. Four-in-Hand Horse title with a record 11th victory on a final score of 116.33, also accepting the Jean Keathley Award sponsored by Michael Freund for lowest dressage score by an FEI whip. Second place went to Sarasota, FL whip Misdee Wrigley-Miller, who accepted the Anne Bliss Memorial Award sponsored by Michael Freund as the most elegant lady driver throughout the competition.
Bringing an Olympic cachet to the show jumping competition was reigning 2012 Olympic Individual Gold medalist Ben Maher, whose flawless rounds on Jane Clark’s Aristo Z led to another Florida championship for him this season after victory in Saturday’s $50,000 CSI2*W Live Oak Grand Prix (42.48 seconds). Second place was Ashlee Bond Clarke riding Little Valley Farm’s Agrostar, whose win qualified her for the World Cup.
After four classes of show jumping competition, the luck of the Irish in the $10,000 E2 Leading Rider Award went to 2012 Olympic Individual Bronze medalist Cian O’Connor.
Super Bowl sports star power was apparent in a double dose at Live Oak International. The 6’5” two-time National Football League Super Bowl linebacker Max Montoya of Hebron, KY, known and loved for his signature lime-green ‘fauxhawk’ helmet, was large and in charge as he drove to the top of the Intermediate Pair Horse championship with his Georgian Grandes. Also drawing thousands of fans and rightly winning applause throughout the week were the world famous stars of the Super Bowl television commercials, the Budweiser Clydesdales.
While the big boys had star power some of the littlest riders stole the show on Sunday when a small herd of small riders entered the ring for the leadline class to resounding applause. Special thanks to sponsors Sleepy P Ranch.
Demonstrating that driving horses (or ponies) isn’t just for the gentleman was Misdee Wrigley-Miller of Sarasota, FL, the reserve champion in the U.S. National Four-in-Hand and winner of the Anne Bliss Memorial award as the most elegant lady driver of the event. Wrigley-Miller, who drove her first pony at age four, was adamant that combined driving was not about muscle, but finesse and saw her reserve championship as an a opportunity to serve as a role model for younger equestriennes.
Ten thousand spectators and 17 nations added up to a winning equation for Live Oak International organizers and brother-sister team, Chester Weber and Juliet Reid. Weber intimated that there is still more to come, with plans in 2015 of expanding the program to embrace Three-Day Eventing, too.
“I foresee Live Oak International as America’s Aachen,” Weber said, comparing the goals of the Ocala venue to the esteemed European venue.
Cian O’Connor and Walk Tall II Win $25,000 Suncast Championship Jumper Classic
Wellington, FL – February 23, 2013 – Week seven of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), sponsored by Hermès , continued on Saturday with the $50,000 USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Fifteen-year-old Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, took home her second win in a row in the prestigious class, this year riding Dr. Betsee Parker’s Ovation to victory. Previous winners filled the second place spots; Liza Boyd and Brunello placed second, while Louise Serio and Castle Rock were third.
Hunter horses and riders have been showcased throughout week seven of the FTI WEF during WCHR competition, featured in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
Saturday night’s Hunter Spectacular competition saw the best of the FTI WEF’s Professional, Amateur and Junior riders, who qualified for the class during competition for their respective divisions throughout the week.
Four panels of two judges each were on hand for the class, each stationed at different points around the arena. The judges for the class included: Panel 1 – Danny Robertshaw and Mary Lisa Leffler, Panel 2 – Scott Williamson and Bill Moroney, Panel 3 – Rachel Kennedy and Scott Hofstetter, Panel 4 – Julie Winkel and Patrick Rodes.
The competitors with the top twelve scores from round one advanced to the second round of the class; among them was the 2012 Hunter Spectacular winner, Victoria Colvin (who won last year with Way Cool). Colvin returned this year on another of Dr. Betsee Parker’s mounts, Ovation, and set the bar high for the night’s competition with a score of 91.5 early on. The duo finished with a second round score of 90.37 for a top score of 181.87.
Colvin was elated to win the Hunter Spectacular two years in a row, especially in such good company as Boyd and Serio.
“Winning two years in a row is amazing. It feels really great. There’s amazing riders in this class, including lots of professionals. It’s great to compete against them,” Colvin stated.
“This year, I was on a different horse. I think this was Ovation’s first or second time under the lights, so I didn’t know how he was going to be, but I felt strong going into the second round and was confident that he was going to be good,” Colvin continued.
Colvin did not put any extra pressure on herself or Ovation to repeat last year’s win. “I don’t really get nervous,” the fifteen-year-old phenom simply explained.
“Ovation is pretty straight-forward and very smooth across the ground,” Colvin described of her winning mount, a thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding.
Brunello, a fifteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Janet Peterson and Boyd, was the only horse to compete at the four-foot height and was first on course for round two. The pair made their presence known in no uncertain terms, galloping to an impressive 91.5 right off the bat. While no one caught their score, combined with their first round score of 86.5, their total score of 178 put them in second place.
“It was a little hard to go back to back,” Boyd admitted. “He actually went better the second round. He’s older now and he likes the pressure. I just went in I said, ‘We’re going for it, buddy.’ We were sitting in eighth and both of us just weren’t quite as pumped up the first round, and you have to get that way with him. You kind of have to give him blood and get him excited.”
Boyd was incredibly impressed by course designer Steve Stephens’ ingenious approach to the night’s courses. “You had to be a rider. It wasn’t just your typical outside, diagonal hunter course and I like to see that these days. I think that the hunters are going that direction and it makes them jump crisper and higher and it’s fun. It makes us better riders in the long run. I think Steve has helped that in a very good way,” Boyd stated.
Boyd likened tonight’s competition to the World Cup Finals of the hunter world, emphasizing the importance of showcasing hunter competition. “It’s a really big deal for us to have this show. It’s nice for us to get highlighted,” Boyd explained.
“All three of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our owners. We have great owners that believe in our program and we wouldn’t be here without them. They’re horses of a lifetime and we’re just really lucky to have them in our lives,” Boyd emphasized.
The only pair to beat Colvin and Ovation in round one was veteran competitors Louise Serio and Castle Rock, a fourteen-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Bryan Baldwin. Castle Rock and Serio also received a score of 91.5, but had a higher score from the tie-breaker judge’s panel. Serio and Castle Rock couldn’t catch Colvin and Ovation during round two, scoring an 86.18 for a total score of 177.6.
“Castle Rock was more relaxed the second round. I was a lot more nervous,” Serio admitted. “It’s hard [going last] when you’re in that hot seat. He’s just a wonderful horse and he just gives you confidence and always tries so hard.”
Serio had equally high praise as Boyd did for Stephens’ course design. “I think what’s really fantastic is that he’s done the Olympics and put as much time and thought into this for us as he did for that, or at least it feels like it,” Serio stated.
“I think that course made the class. I think our horses rose to the occasion. They weren’t taxed too much, but they were taxed enough to jump really well. The lines rode beautifully and he’s just an amazing course designer,” Serio continued.
Serio was equally complimentary of the WCHR showcase throughout week seven of the FTI WEF. “I think it’s really amazing how important it is as a rider to get into this class. I’ve been doing this a long time and I stress every year about getting into this class,” Serio emphasized. “You see everybody gearing up and working for it and trying to get in it. It’s really fun to see that and I think it’s really great to see the class go so well.”
The WCHR Calcutta, hosted in the International Club immediately prior to the class’s start, raised $28,500. Proceeds will benefit the USHJA Foundation.
The Peter Wetherill Cup was awarded to Lynn Rice, owner of Gramercy Park. The Peter Wetherill Cup was established in October of 2011 to honor the life and legacy of well-known equestrian, Peter Wetherill, and to recognize the WCHR “Hunter of the Year.” Rice was joined for the presentation by Gramercy Park’s professional rider and trainer, Tom Brennan and Tony Workman.
Several other special awards recognized the night’s top competitors following round one of competition. The Charlie Weaver Memorial award, which recognizes the conformation horse with the highest average score during round one, was awarded to Taken, ridden by Kelley Farmer and owned by Jessica Stitt.
Empire, ridden by Peter Pletcher and owned by David Gochman, was recognized as the Best Conditioned Horse of round one with the Mark Gregory Memorial Award. Empire is groomed by Gustavo Hernandez.
Amateur-Owner and Junior Hunter Division Champions
Amateur-Owner and Junior riders had qualified for the evening’s class only a few hours prior, with divisions awarding championship honors earlier on Saturday. The Bainbridge Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division saw championship honors go to Lexi Maounis and her eleven-year-old Hanoverian mare Sienna. Sienna and Maounis were first and sixth over fences during day one and secured the championship title with a first place finish in Saturday’s stake round. Reserve champion was Humor Me and Stephanie Danhakl, who were fifth and first over fences.
Maounis was thrilled to secure a spot in Saturday night’s prestigious Hunter Spectacular class. “It’s so special to win during Hunter Week. She’s been champion the past few weeks here [at WEF] and I’m just so happy we could do it again.”
Maounis’s always dependable mare was unfazed by the wide open spaces of the International Arena. “She was perfect in the International Ring. The handy was just really fun, especially getting to do the tight turns with her,” Maounis commented.
Rock Steady and Katie Robinson triumphed in the Hunt Limited Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter division. Robinson and her thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding were first and second over fences during day one of competition and finished second over fences and third under saddle on day two. Reserve champion was Gia, ridden by Katie Gibson.
The pair was first and third over fences and seventh under saddle.
Robinson described Rock Steady as her perfect match, and credited their success to his love of the show ring. “He’s got just the right amount of sass. He gets to the jumps and has fun with it. He just enjoys showing,” stated Robinson.
This week is the highlight for many hunter competitors at the FTI WEF, and Robinson welcomes the extra attention it brings to hunter riders and horses. “Hunter Week really is a special week. It’s so nice to be showcased and to get out in the big ring. It’s nice to feel special and it’s so much fun,” Robinson described.
Junior rider divisions also competed throughout the day on Saturday for a spot in the night class, beginning with the Antares Large Junior Hunter 15 and Under division. Tori Colvin and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Inclusive were champions of the division after placing fifth under saddle and sweeping the over fences classes. Reserve champion was Kyle Owens’ Cinema, ridden by Kirklen Peterson. The pair was fourth and second over fences.
Colvin also emerged victorious with Ovation in the Small Junior Hunter 15 and Under division. Ovation won the under saddle class and placed second, first and third over fences. Reserve champion of the division was Whatever, owned and ridden by Vivian Yowan. Yowan and Whatever were fifth under saddle and third, second and first over fences.
Colvin is already a veteran competitor in the Hunter Spectacular despite only being fifteen, and was especially pleased to have two of her mounts qualify. “Every win is significant to me, but it’s really special to win during Hunter Week. WCHR is the biggest show of WEF, and it’s an honor to win at WEF in general,” Colvin stated.
Colvin described her mounts – Inclusive, a ten-year-old Warmblood gelding, and Ovation, a thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding – as an exceptionally talented pair.
“[Ovation] is an amazing mover, and he just sweeps across the ground. He may not jump as well as Inclusive, but he creates such a pretty picture that the judges always love him,” Colvin described.
“Inclusive just has an unreal jump,” Colvin continued. “He was great today and is an amazing horse. He’s very easy to ride; you can just let go and let him do his job. He gets up to the jump and just snaps his legs up perfectly.”
The older Junior divisions wrapped up the qualifying rounds for the Hunter Spectacular. Garfield and Alexandra Crown triumphed in the Antarés Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division after the pair jumped to first, second, and second place finishes over fences and fourth place under saddle. Reserve champion was Chansonette Farm, LLC’s Madison, ridden by Lillie Keenan. Keenan and Madison were second, second and third over fences and third under saddle.
Crown and Garfield have accumulated an array of championship titles at the FTI WEF, but edging out the competition at Hunter Week was especially meaningful for Crown.
“A lot of people wait to come [to the FTI WEF] this week just to show during Hunter Week. The judging is a little harder, the courses are harder, but Garfield was on it today. He’s always perfect though,” Crown grinned.
Keenan and Jennifer Gates’ Parkland, another duo intimately familiar with the FTI WEF championship circle, unsurprisingly won the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division. Parkland, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding, and Keenan clinched this week’s title with three blue ribbon finishes and one third place round over fences in addition to another first place prize under saddle. Reserve champion of the Small Junior 16-17 division was Good Humor, owned and ridden by Madeleine Thatcher.
“This horse makes me feel pretty confident all the time,” Keenan admitted. “He was a lot of fun in the International Ring today. He has a huge stride, so to be able to go in a big ring like this and gallop around is a lot of fun for both of us.”
Cian O’Connor and Walk Tall II Win $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
Week seven of the 2013 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival continued on Saturday afternoon with the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC. Richard Jeffery, of Bournemouth, England, is the course designer on the derby field for the week. On Saturday afternoon, Jeffery set the track for 31 entries in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Only three entries cleared the first round course to advance to the jump-off, and two cleared the short course. Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and Darragh Kenny finished first and second.
Young American rider Blythe Marano was the first rider to jump-off aboard Riverview Farm, LLC’s Urban and finished with eight faults in 48.83 seconds to place third. Darragh Kenny and Cavallo Farms, LLC’s Twister jumped next and cleared the jump-off course in 45.22 seconds to finish second. Last to go, Cian O’Connor and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s Walk Tall II took the win with their time of 43.53 seconds.
Both of the top horse and rider combinations in Saturday’s class came in strong with wins earlier in the week. Kenny and Twister won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class on Wednesday and O’Connor and Walk Tall II topped Friday’s $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge. Saturday’s course on the grass tested many of the competitors on the roster, but they both mastered the track.
A new horse for Olympian Cian O’Connor, Walk Tall II is an eleven-year-old Anglo European gelding by Kannan x Farhaan. Walk Tall previously showed with Irish rider Keith Doyle and won last year’s Queen’s Cup in Hickstead. O’Connor got the horse just before Christmas but did a lot of traveling before coming to Florida, so this was their first show together.
“He is a really talented horse,” O’Connor stated after the class. “He has had good results before. He won a big class in Hickstead last year, so he likes the big open space and I think the field suited him well today.”
“He has been ridden by the same rider since he was four, so I am a different rider and it takes time to adjust,” O’Connor noted. “I just feel that we are getting to know each other a little bit better today after just a few classes. In our second week jumping he won a 1.40m yesterday and a 1.50m today, so I can’t really ask for much better than that. If I can train him to listen to me and understand me and really get all of the gears, I think I can jump any course. He is so careful and so brave.”
The rider described Walk Tall further, explaining the details that they are working out as they get to know each other. “He has a very big stride,” O’Connor said. “Ideally, you’d want a horse to have a big stride and a short stride, but he has not learned the short bit yet, so that can present problems sometimes if you are not extremely on the ball yourself when riding. You have to adjust quite quickly when landing if the distance is quiet, but he is very willing and honest and he is super careful. He is by Kannan, which is French, out of an Irish mother. He has a lot of blood. When you warm up outside he is not that impressive, and then when you go into the ring he is really careful, so it is a good attribute. He saves energy for the class.”
Last to go in the jump-off, O’Connor was warming up when the other two riders jumped, but he asked U.S. rider Kent Farrington to watch their rounds and report.
“It was a great advantage going last,” O’Connor acknowledged. “I had asked Kent to keep an eye on proceedings for me. Sometimes it is quite hard to concentrate when you are warming up. I watched Darragh Kenny go out of the corner of my eye. I thought he was neat because he did an inside turn inside the water to the double of verticals. I said to Kent, ‘I won’t beat him because I don’t want to take that turn yet’, and Kent said that I could be quicker if I kept the rhythm up and went around, so it was great to have Kent there for that bit of advice.”
O’Connor is done showing now for week seven and will be gearing up for week eight’s CSIO competition and $75,000 FEI Furusiyya Nations Cup presented by G&C Farm. He hopes to help the Irish team to victory.
“We are happy with our week and we have a big week next week for the Nations Cup,” O’Connor stated. “I hope to be jumping Splendor on the team and hopefully we have a good result there. The Nations Cup is important here. We have so many Irish riders based here in Wellington and they have great sponsors and supporters, so it would be really nice to give them all something to cheer about.”
The Irish team will be named next week.
Week seven of the FTI WEF will conclude on Sunday with the highlight $50,000 Hermès Jumper Derby featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC at 3 p.m. WCHR competition will conclude in the International Arena featuring the Peggy Cone Adult Amateur Hunter Classic. The Children’s and Pony Hunter divisions will also complete their competition for the week. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Laura Cardon and Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 9 through March 31. The FTI WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are “AA” rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $7 million in prize money will be awarded. For more information, please visit www.equestriansport.com.
About FTI Consulting FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,800 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.56 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2011. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
London (GBR), 8 August 2012 – Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat claimed individual jumping gold at the London 2012 Olympic venue at Greenwich Park today when he was the only rider in the final competition to maintain a completely clean sheet in the two rounds. And in a thrilling two-way third-round jump off, The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder pipped Ireland’s Cian O’Connor for silver.
Hopes had been high for a fairytale British ending to a week of fantastic jumping sport, but it wasn’t to be. And it was a very last-minute affair for O’Connor who only made the cut when Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson’s stallion, Casall, was withdrawn after being sent to the holding box at this morning’s final veterinary inspection. This allowed the three riders sharing reserve spot to take their chance, and the Irishman grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Bengtsson, silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Games, was disappointed when he couldn’t compete. “I’ve been working towards this since Hong Kong, but the horse has to be my first priority,” he said. Swedish team vet Jonas Tornell explained, “Casall got a small injury on his left front leg during the second round of the team competition.”