Not having touched a pole in Florida all week, Cian O’Connor’s 11 year-old French-bred gelding Seringat presented him with another winning double clear round and a $33,000 pay cheque in the four-star City of Ocala Grand Prix today.
Already a celebrated combination after a textbook double clear round that clinched the Ocala Nations’ Cup for Ireland on Friday, O’Connor and Seringat were one of five Irish combinations in today’s $100,000 Grand Prix, but the only one to qualify for the jump-off.
Thirty-sixth to jump in a 39-strong predominantly American field, the Meath rider steered his recently-acquired mount to a faultless first round on a tough course that yielded only three clear scores.
O’Connor then found himself in a battle for the Grand Prix trophy against 27 year-old US rider Ali Wolff with the chestnut gelding Casall, and American Olympic team gold medallist Beezie Madden aboard the 11 year-old stallion Breitling LS.
Madden, first to go, left all the poles up and clocked in on a time of 41.43 seconds. Wolff also rode a fault-free round but came home just under half a second slower that her fellow-countrywoman.
With the pressure on to deliver yet another clear round, Seringat showed his by now customary poise and speed to stop the clock a fifth of a second faster than Madden, and secured the trophy for Olympic bronze medallist O’Connor.
O’Connor said: “Seringat has incredible scope, he’s like a thoroughbred, it’s very easy to go forward and you have to sit very quietly on him. It took a bit of time to adjust to him, but I’ve been doing a lot of work with him in the last few weeks, and I think it’s paid off with the four clear rounds over the last few days.
“I’m obviously thrilled with today’s win, and I’m so pleased how Seringat has improved. It caps a great week for Michael Blake, who was our chef d’equipe here, and was a big asset to us all.”
Earlier in the competition, Ireland’s Christina Kelly had 12 first round faults with The Kingdom, while Kevin Babington and Shorapur had two rails down. Richie Moloney and Freestyle de Muze collected four faults, as did Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z, but at 76.34 seconds Sweetnam was the fastest four-faulter in the field and collected $4,500 for a sixth place.
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