After a slow start at the Horse Of The Year Show in Birmingham, Irish dominance grew through the weekend to culminate in Cian O’Connor’s triumph tonight, winning the Leading Show Jumper of the Year Grand Prix with the ten year-old gelding Super Sox.
Claiming almost 15,000 euro for his first place, O’Connor was one of just eight through to the jump-off from 32 starters on a difficult course that saw seven riders retire and only seven first-round clears, which included O’Connor and fellow Irish rider Shane Breen with Market Irminka.
Though O’Connor delivered a faultless first round, his place on the clock left him third to go in the jump-off. Setting a blazing time of 32.49, the Co. Meath rider had to wait for challenges from five more riders before he knew the trophy was his, but only British veteran John Whitaker with the bay mare Ornellaia came close enough to cause serious concern, finishing clear, but a vital four-hundredths of a second off the Irishman’s pace, and having to settle for the runner-up spot.
Shane Breen and Market Irminka had one pole down in the jump-off, to come home in sixth place.
Last year’s winner of the Leading Show Jumper of the Year, Cork native Billy Twomey, bowed out in the first round tonight on Diaghilev, with two fences on the ground.
A beaming O’Connor said after his victory: “I’m thrilled with tonight’s win. Super Sox was outstanding and I’m over the moon to get my hands on this prestigious trophy.”
Earlier at Birmingham, Breen and Acoustik Solo du Baloubet claimed victory in the Speed Horse of The Year competition, with Billy Twomey and Ardcolum Duke close behind in second place. Breen also had a third place earlier in the day in Birmingham’s Two Phase competition, riding the French-bred Tango d’Ecry, with the trophy going to Britain’s Louise Saywell and Feigtling.
Meanwhile in Morocco, Ireland’s Capt. Geoff Curran and Ringwood Glen finished second in the World Cup class on a four fault total over two rounds. First place went to Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and Balou Rubin R, also on four faults.