Top 10 Grand Prix finishes for Kenny and O’Connor on fantastic Irish weekend in Wellington

  • 31 March 2024, 16:29

Richie Moloney and Sherlock 46 after their win in Wellington. pic: Sportfot

Moloney and Swail won classes earlier in the week as Wellington Equestrian Festival concludes


Ireland’s League Of Nations heroes, Darragh Kenny and Cian O’Connor, continued to shine under the Florida sun as they posted top ten finishes in a stacked five-star Rolex Grand Prix field as Wellington’s International Winter Equestrian Festival drew to a close.

Kenny and O’Connor followed up their contributions to Ireland’s major triumph in Ocala last weekend to make the jump-off in the €500,000 feature but had to settle for sixth and ninth respectively on this occasion, with victory going to Christian Kukuk (GER) and Checker 47.

Kukuk zipped around in 35.82 to claim the spoils. American duo McLain Ward on Ilex (35.82) and Karl Cook on Kalinka Van’T Zorgvliet (36.63) completed the podium positions.

There was a strong Irish representation as 17 of the top 30 ranked show jumping athletes on the planet competed on the 12th and final WEF week, with seven riders from these shores bidding for glory in the prestigious event.

These included Ireland’s two other League Of Nations winning representatives, Daniel Coyle and Shane Sweetnam but they were out of luck as only nine of the forty-one combinations were able to find the solutions to the puzzles set by course designer, Guilherme Jorge.

Unfortunately, Offaly native Kenny, riding the Heathman Farm-owned stallion VDL Cartello in the arena he knows so well having operated from Wellington for a number of years, and Meath-based O’Connor, partnering Ronnoco Jump ULC’s Maurice (the only horse of the quartet that delivered the Ocala showpiece for Team Ireland to back up here), each had a pole down in the quest for speed.

Kenny and Cartello were the quickest of the four-faulters with a time of 38.23, while O’Connor eased off the gas on Maurice once their chances of victory were over, the clock stopping on 40.27 as they crossed the finish line.

Meanwhile on Friday, Richie Moloney and Sherlock 46 secured the $10,560 first prize in the two-star Vogel Qualifier, in which Philip McGuane and Paso Doble SCF finished eighth and Jenny Rankin and Ibiza were tenth on another fruitful outing for Irish competitors.

Thirteen combinations made it to the jump-off, which was extremely tight, but it was Moloney who managed to eke out the crucial 0.19 seconds required to bag the middle spot on the podium, navigating Sherlock to a winning time of 38.38 and seeing off Colombia’s Mark Bluman on S&L Gliludium Riverland.

Later, in the evening’s five-star class won by American rider Cook and Caracole De La Roque, Coyle and O’Connor registered two more top ten results.

Coyle and Jasper were sixth with a time of 64.39, with O’Connor and Eve D’Ouilly’s time of 64.60 enough for ninth from 64 participants. The pair were among 23 to go clear.

The weekend got off to a brilliant start for the Irish as Conor Swail and 11-year-old Casturano topped the field in the five-star WEF Challenge Cup on Thursday.

Fifteen combinations had unblemished records after the opening round but despite a relative lack of experience at this level, Castellano didn’t knock a pole and set an early time of 36.25 seconds in the jump-off that could not be beaten.

Andrew Bourns was less than four-tenths of a second back in third, piloting 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Sea TopBlue for a major share of the prize money.

In all, there were four Irish combinations in the top ten, Coyle and Incredible placing fourth, with O’Connor and Fancy De Kergane also posting a pleasing effort in ninth.