IN THE early hours of this morning (Saturday) Meath's Cian O'Connor added to Ireland's recent run of successes in the US with a second place in the $84,000 St. Valentine's Day Grand Prix in Wellington, Florida.
Battling against some of the world's top riders, the 34 year-old Olympic bronze medallist made it through to the eight horse jump-off, where he then chased America's No. 1 rider Kent Farrington and the mare Blue Angel for the winner's trophy. However, Farrington proved too fast for O'Connor, who was riding the gelding Carolus Z, and the Irishman was forced to settle for the runner-up prize.
Afterwards O'Connor said of his horse: ""It's the first grand prix placing with him, so I'm pretty happy. I knew it was going to be mission impossible to beat Kent, so I just tried to jump a clear round and hopefully hold on for second place. It was great prize money tonight, so thanks very much to the sponsor. It is fantastic to come to a different venue, but also to jump for this kind of money is fantastic. Some people are jumping younger horses or new horses, and it's great, it's worthwhile."
The Grand Prix, which was sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, also saw Cork's Shane Sweetnam take tenth place with the Irish Sport Horse mare Solerina.
On Thursday, Carrick-on-Suir's Kevin Babington took second and third places in Round Six of the Winter Equestrian Festival Challenge Cup in Florida, riding Shorapur into the runner-up slot and the Irish Sport Horse Mar Q into third. Once again, the USA's Kent Farrington and Blue Angel claimed the top spot.
Last week Shane Sweetnam and Cyklon won the world-ranking opening speed class at Wellington, with Offaly's Darragh Kenny and Prof de la Roque taking second.