Tipperary-born Irish Olympian Kevin Babington and The Irish Sport Horse Mark Q won the $72,000 Equinimity Challenge Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, with Irish riders filling three of the top four places in the class.
Six of an original start list of 65 starters progressed to the jump-off round, with Carrick On Suir-native Babington drawn second last to go against the clock. American Carly Anthony and Clochard set the time to beat at 44.13 seconds, but Babington and Mark Q, knocked more than four seconds off the lead time, to claim the top prize in a time of 40.03 seconds.
Offaly’s Darragh Kenny, last to go with Chinook II, took the runner-up spot in 40.84 seconds, with Anthony and Clochard eventually finishing in third position.
Another Irish rider, Lorcan Gallagher with Hunters Conlypso II, having knocked a pole in the jump-off, finished in fourth place in a time of 40.27, while Captain Brian Cournane with the Irish Sport Horse mare Penelope Cruz finished in eight.
Discussing his jump-off round, Babington said:
“With Darragh Kenny following me, it was a lucky day for me!. [Mark Q] was great across the ring. He’s a lot of Thoroughbred, so he galloped like a racehorse across to the vertical.”
“He’s just been a great partner,” the winner rider said of the gelding. “He’s good indoors. He’s good in the sun, but he loves the grass! He just loves the grass. For the older horses, I think it’s a little easier on them. He’s 17 now, but he doesn’t feel it. He’s probably one of the soundest horses that I have in the barn.”
Final Results: $72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 4 CSI4*
1 Mark Q and Kevin Babington (IRL), 0/0/ 40.03 seconds.
2 Chinook II and Darragh Kenny (IRL), 0/0/ 40.84 seconds.
3 Clochard and Carly Anthony (USA), 0/0/ 44.136 seconds.
4 Hunters Conlypso II and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL), 0/4/ 40.27 seconds.
8 Penelope Cruz and Capt. Brian Cournane (IRL), 4/ 75.29 seconds.