“End result of a lifetime’s work” – O’Connor wins Maryland CCI5*
- 22 October 2023, 21:12
Corkman becomes first Irish rider to win a five star since 1965
Austin O’Connor followed up from his podium finish at Badminton earlier this year and ended his 2023 eventing season on a high by winning the prestigious MARS Maryland CCI5*-L.
Cork native O’Connor got off to a strong start with his Tokyo Olympic mount Colorado Blue. He completed his test along with the first half of the 26-competitor strong field on Thursday. Riding The Salty Syndicate-owned 14-year-old gelding, he scored 33.7 to sit just outside the top ten.
Ian Stark’s cross-country course proved challenging with nine combinations not completing and only one combination – Mia Farley and Phelps – coming home clear inside the optimum time. O’Connor was the second fastest round of the day, picking up just 1.2 time penalties.
The competition ended in spectacular style. O’Connor was in fourth place heading into the final phase. With the riders jumping in reverse order the pressure was on. Clear rounds were few and far between with no rider jumping clear inside the time allowed.
O’Connor knew time would be influential and a fence down would be costly – a clear round was needed to move up the leaderboard and that is exactly what he delivered to finish on a score of 34.9. The round proved to be the only clear show jumping round inside the time allowed.
Overwhelmed, a delighted O’Connor paid tribute to his mount, saying: “People like me – we’re not supposed to win five-stars, but it’s just happened, I think.”
“It’s the end result of a lifetime’s work really. Ultimately it’s all about the horse – he’s unbelievable, he’s been a champion for years and privately I was prepared to give him to somebody better because thought he deserved to win a five-star and I didn’t think I could win one with him, but here we are.
“It’s amazing. I have to thank Maryland, and the American people. The welcome and treatment we have received since we arrived last Monday has been unbelievable.”
Following her excellent cross-country Farley dropped from third place to fifth with two fences down. William Fox-Pitt had one fence down to finish just behind O’Connor on 35.3 with Grafennacht.
Oliver Townend was the final rider into the arena riding the Irish Sport Horse Cooley Rosalent, an unfortunate two fences down dropped him from first to third place.
Cooley Rosalent (ISH) – 2014 mare by Valent (KWPN) out of Bellney Jewel (TB) by Roselier (TB). Breeder: J W Rosbotham, Co Armagh. Rider: Oliver Townend (GBR)
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