In a nail biting finish under the heat of Florida floodlights, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor took fourth place tonight in the $380,000 Suncast Grand Prix with the Belgian stallion Good Luck.

Tipperary rider Kevin Babington also took sixth place with Shorapur, but with the winner’s prize at the five star Wellington competition going to the USA’s own two-time Olympic team gold medallist McLain Ward and HH Azur for the second consecutive year.

With 39 international combinations taking part, O’Connor watched as ninth rider to jump, Kevin Babington, recorded the first Irish clear round, and then, last to go, the Meath rider gave a spellbinding performance on Good Luck, who drew gasps from the capacity crowd as he cleared each fence on the first round track with what sometimes looked like feet to spare.

With 12 through to the jump-off, Babington again gave a faultless performance on Shorapur, and briefly held the lead on 41.37 seconds. O’Connor was again last to go, but despite introducing a daredevil turn in the jump-off course, could not catch McLain Ward’s 39.70 seconds, and settled for fourth, just half a second behind the winner. Babington’s final place was sixth.

O’Connor was recently the anchorman on Ireland’s winning Nations’ Cup team at Ocala in Florida with the French-bred Seringat, and then claimed victory with the same horse at Ocala’s Grand Prix a few days later.

Other Irish riders tonight were Shane Sweetnam on Beezie, who finished the first round on four faults, while Daniel Coyle on Grafton also had one pole down. Richie Moloney was another who failed to qualify for the jump-off, incurring eight first round faults on Call me Number One.

Jack Burns

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