Co. Meath-based Cian O’Connor and the 11-year-old stallion Good Luck produced a stunning performance to win Sunday’s five-star Grand Prix at the Polish Nations Cup show in Sopot.
A tough first round course saw just four clear rounds from the 50 starters. The top 25% went forward to the jump-off including the four clears, six riders on just a time fault, along with the three fastest four fault scores from the opening round.
O’Connor, who returned from a six week lay-off with a groin injury only a week ago, and Good Luck, ensured they had the plum draw last to go, when they produced the fastest clear of the opening round. Portuguese rider Luciana Diniz took the lead when second last to go with the chestnut mare Fit For Fun and stopped the clock clear in 48.77 seconds. O’Connor and Good Luck knocked almost a second off the target, crossing the line in 47.59 seconds to take the winner’s prize of nearly €50,000. Luciana Diniz finished as runner-up while Marc Houtzager of the Netherlands was third aboard Sterrehof’s Calimero, with the only other double clear of the competition.
Speaking after his victory Cian O’Connor said:
“I’m over the moon. The horse is getting a little bit older now and is a lot more consistent. I saw the time was tight in the first round and came inside the vertical to the treble and that really helped. I didn’t see many others go in the jump-off but the lads, Bertram [Allen] and Michael Blake, were a great help and said to leave a stride out from fence one to two and I think that’s where I made up the time.
O’Connor went on to explain the importance of a major five-star success such as this:
“This is a very important win as it now pre-qualifies us for all five-star Grand Prix’s for the next 12 months so big shows like Aachen or Dublin we don’t have to jump earlier at the week to qualify which is great.”