Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and Seringat broke American hearts on their home soil by claiming a stunning jump-off victory in Sunday night’s $100,000 City of Ocala four-star Grand Prix.
An incredibly tough first round course saw just three of the 39 starters jump clear, with O’Connor eventually joined in a three-way jump-off by two American riders, Ali Wolff and Beezie Madden.
First to go against the clock, Madden set a tough target as she went clear in 41.43 seconds with Breitling LS, while second to go, Wolff and Casall also went clear in a slightly slower time of 41.86.
O’Connor and the 11-year-old gelding once again went clear and crucially knocked two-tenths of a second off Madden’s time to give Ireland another superb win.
Speaking afterwards, a delighted O’Connor said:
“I don’t remember the last time I jumped double clear in the Nations Cup and won the Grand Prix so she [Brazil’s Marina Azevedo], is now my new favourite course builder. We bought this horse [Seringat] in November and he hadn’t that much experience. He jumped 1m45 outdoors and he jumped a couple of bigger indoor classes. He is very brave, super careful and has a big jump. He was a bit hard to manoeuvre between the fences. He was good at a World Cup a few weeks ago and I put a lot of time into him before we came here to Ocala.
“The big ring suited him here, impressive jumps and the turns helped me in the first round as it didn’t let him get strong and the jump-off couldn’t have been nicer. It has been an incredible weekend andIi’m so happy to cap it off with the Grand Prix win. Seringat has really improved over the last few months and will be a real Grand Prix horse for the future,” O’Connor concluded.
O’Connor, who this week appeared in his 111th Nations Cup for his country, walked away with a winner’s prize of $33,000. Corkman Shane Sweetnam also took a share of the prize fund, as he finished sixth aboard Chaqui Z with the fastest four fault score from the first round.
There was another Irish win in Wellington, Florida, when Derry’s Daniel Coyle claimed the Under 25 Grand Prix with Simba De La Roque. They were one of 15 combinations who made it into the jump-off where a blistering clear round in a time of 36.28 seconds saw them take the winner’s prize. Just four combinations managed to jump clear in the second round, with Coyle finishing a massive seven seconds ahead of runner-up Hayley Barnhill.