Looking like a winner from the moment he brought the nine year-old Callisto into the massive Al Shaqab arena in Doha tonight, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor left spectators in no doubt that he was aiming for the fastest time possible.
With 25 riders already gone in the speed class, the lead was held by Qatar’s Sheikh Ali Al Thani on the grey stallion Imperio Egipcio Milton, who stopped the clock at 69.71 seconds, but O’Connor put his head down after the first few fences and clipped a remarkable six seconds off Al Thani’s time, much to the delight of the crowd.
It was then left to the remaining 11 riders to find ways of replicating O’Connor and Callisto’s skilful round, but despite brave efforts from top riders such as Britain’s Scott Brash and Michael Whitaker, Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts and Germany’s world number one Christian Ahlmann, it was left to Qatari rider Bassem Mohammed with the ten year-old Argelith Squid to fill the runner-up spot, just under a fifth of a second off the Irish rider’s pace.
Afterwards O’Connor, whose wife Ruth had given birth to their second child, Cara Louise, just 24 hours earlier in Dublin, said: “It was great to win a class at the Global Tour final. Callisto has been in great form all year and is becoming more competitive all the time. A nice result in the Grand Prix tomorrow would just top it off as the perfect week!”
Yesterday at Doha, Ireland’s Bertram Allen and Britain’s John Whitaker celebrated victory in the Global Champions League, where their team, Valkenswaard United, took the inaugural series title.