Cian O’Connor and Callisto win at Spruce Meadows ahead of $2 Million CP International Grand Prix
- 11 September 2016, 10:44
Meath-based Cian O’Connor and the nine-year-old gelding Callisto came out on top in the Suncor Energy Winning Round at the five-star Spruce Meadows Masters in Canada on Saturday, in front of a new record attendance of 89,700 spectators. O’Connor will be in action again at the famous Canadian venue later today in the $2 Million CP International Grand Prix riding Good Luck, along with fellow Irish rider Greg Broderick riding The Irish Sport Horse MHS Going Global.
O’Connor and Callisto, who is owned by Ian O’Grady, Philippe de Balander, and Ronnoco Jump Ltd, were one of 10 combinations who qualified for the Suncor Energy second round. They were first to jump in round two and cleared the course in the winning time of 47.87 seconds. Switzerland’s Guerdat slotted into second with Albfuehren’s Happiness, while home favourite Eric Lamaze and Chacco Kid came home in third.
Commenting on his victory, which is O’Connor’s first at Spruce Meadows, he said, “It is always nice to get a win. It is a good competition because you get a chance to clean the slate if you make the top ten. I had a time fault, just over the time allowed in the first round, but he jumped well. Then I was first to go in the jump-off.
“I had walked the course quite well and I just tried to play to his strengths because he has such a big stride,” O’Connor continued. “He actually is not that nippy or quick, so I have to really leave out strides. In this arena, a horse that has a huge length of stride and stays careful has a big advantage, so it was great.”
O’Connor took over the ride on Callisto, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quasimodo Z x Jokinal de Bornival), from France’s Aymeric de Ponnat at the start of 2016. He explained that the gelding has an issue with being very horse shy and does not like having other horses around him.
“The previous rider had difficulty warming him up if a horse came towards him, so I spent a lot of time working with him, and trying to get him relaxed,” O’Connor detailed. “We started using blinkers in his training and that has really helped him a lot. He does not wear them in the competition, but just during the warm-up, so he stays relaxed and focused.
“Horses are herd animals, so I do not know why he is like that. Maybe he just got a fright at some stage. Gradually I am going to take the blinkers back and I would say eventually he will be able to go without them. He has not been as afraid, so it is interesting how they have worked. As he has started to settle, I can train him and jump him bigger, and I think he is going to be a really exciting horse for the future. He takes well to this ring, so I was already thinking about coming back here for the Summer Series next year, and now I am definitely going to come back.”
O’Connor looks forward to jumping his top mount Good Luck in Sunday’s $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, and noted that he feels “quietly confident” heading into the competition.
“Good Luck is the best horse I have ever had, so I am confident that we have a very good chance,” O’Connor stated. “He has extraordinary scope. He can jump the biggest fences, he is so careful, he is quite fast against the clock, and he is just one of the better horses in the world I think. He jumped twice this week, double clear the first day and one down the second day. He has had two days off now, so he should be ready to go.”
Tipperary’s Greg Broderick and his Olympic mount MHS Going Global will also go into this evening’s CP International Grand Prix full of confidence. The pair have already notched up two top 10 finishes at Spruce Meadows this week, jumping double clear on both occasions.
The $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, begins at 7pm Irish time.