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Despite being first to go in the jump-off, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and the 10-year-old gelding ‘Careca LS Elite’, owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd, stormed to victory in Sunday’s $50,000 Restylane two-star Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, USA.
Seven of the 44 starters made it through to the second round and O’Connor led from start to finish with his clear in 45.65 seconds proving unbeatable.
“He’s a very intelligent horse with a wonderful canter,” said O’Connor. “He has a super technique in front, so you can really put him close to the jumps, and he has a great way of jumping. When he’s fresh, he’s a little bit keen so he needs plenty of jumping, plenty of classes and you can really feel there today in the jump-off he was really easy to ride. He can turn back short and he’s catty at the jumps, so it really makes my job easy to go fast on him.”
The last combination to go in the jump-off, Rachel Cornacchia (CAN) and ‘Valkyrie De Talma’ came closest to catching O’Connor – finishing two-hundredths of a second off the mark in 45.67, while Jennifer Waxman (USA) and ‘Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof’ finished third in 46.07.
O’Connor has had ‘Careca’ for the past year, speaking highly of his talent, noting that he is pleased with the gelding’s development thus far.
“I saw him last year through a friend of mine, Enda Carroll at Ashford Farm,” said O’Connor. “We bought the horse and brought him on with some National Grand Prix classes in Ireland, where he did well. There haven’t been many shows because of the pandemic, so it’s really about building him up and using these classes to get used to him. He’s been very good in all the national classes he’s jumped, so I decided to put him up to the CSI2* this week, and he coped really well.”
The Olympic individual bronze medallist, who has represented Ireland in 15 international championships, has a string of up-and-coming horses at WEF this season, with a very specific goal in mind for the 2021 season.
“We look at the season with an overall goal and try to work backwards from that target,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty with the Olympic Games, but that’s still the main focus to work towards. We’re working backwards from there in terms of classes and how we produce the horses. My main horse, ‘PSG Final’, is the one I’ll be aiming at that. He’s picked up a little injury at the moment, so he’ll be out of action for about a month. I’m building up ‘Cadiz’ and ‘Kilkenny’, so I have ‘Plan B’ and ‘Plan C’ in place.”
O’Connor will continue to campaign for the duration of WEF, while also training students at the elite level, including Nicole Walker who represents Canada and up-and-coming Irish riders Max and Tom Wachman, who have already had success in the early stages of circuit.
$401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* – Winter Equestrian Festival Florida, USA: 1) Alejandro: 2009 Rheinländer gelding by Acorado’s Ass x Contanga, Shane Sweetnam (IRL), Seabrook, SpyCoast Farm and Sweet Oak Farm: 0/0/37.03; 2) Clooney 51: 2006 Westphalian gelding by Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo, Martin Fuchs (SUI), Luigi Baleri: 0/0/37.16; 3) Eddie Blue: 2009 KWPN gelding by VDL Zirocco Blue x Marlon, Devin Ryan (USA), LL Show Jumpers LLC: 0/0/38.74; 4) Garant: 2011 KWPN gelding by Warrant x C’est La Vie, Elizabeth Madden (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/46.66; 5) Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve: 2009 SBS stallion by Bamako de Muze x Heartbreaker, Jessica Springsteen (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 0/4/37.11; 6) Pacino Amiro: 2012: Irish Sport Horse mare by Pacino x Carnone Dancing Queen, Bertram Allen (IRL), Aiden McGregory: 0/4/37.18.
$50,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI2* – WEF Florida USA: 1) Careca LS Elite: 2011 SLS gelding by Carusso LS La Silla x Rebeca LS, Cian O’Connor (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/0/45.65; 2) Valkyrie De Talma: 2009 Selle Français mare by Diamant De Semilly x Reggae De Talma, Rachel Cornacchia (CAN), Eventyre Farms: 0/0/45.67; 3) Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof: 2012 BWP stallion by Cicero Z x Belle Van’t Kiezelhof, Jennifer Waxman (USA), Triple S Group: 0/0/46.07.