Saturday at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament hosted the Suncor Energy Winning Round, with a win for Ireland’s Cian O’Connor aboard Ian O’Grady, Philippe de Balander, and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s Callisto. Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Hofgut Albführen GmbH’s Albfuehren’s Happiness finished second, and Eric Lamaze (CAN) aboard the Chacco Kid Group’s Chacco Kid placed third.
Held in a winning round format over a 1.50m course set by Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios, 30 entries started in round one. The top ten competitors were then invited to return for the winning round, in which they begin again with zero penalties. The combination that has the fewest faults in the fastest time in the winning round is the winner.
Only eight entries were able to clear the first round without fault, and both Cian O’Connor and Steve Guerdat advanced to the winning round with one time fault each in round one. O’Connor and Callisto were first to jump in round two and cleared the course in the winning time of 47.87 seconds. Guerdat immediately followed with a clear aboard Albfuehren’s Happiness in 48.20 seconds. Lamaze and Chacco Kid later jumped into third place with their clear round in 48.65 seconds.
Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) guided Ludo Philippaerts H&M Quenzo de la Roque to a clear second round in 49.51 seconds to place fourth. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Stephex Stables’ Limestone Grey jumped clear with the fifth place time of 50.60 seconds.
Commenting on his victory, which is O’Connor’s first at Spruce Meadows, the rider stated, “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,” O’Connor mused. “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."
Remarking on his first Spruce Meadows victory, O’Connor smiled, “It feels cool. There is nowhere better. The crowd is great. I love the show and the way they do everything. From the time you land at the airport and the people pick you up, everything is organized. The people are so nice, and so professional, and so helpful. All of the shows in Europe could come here and take a lesson to see how they look after people here. The way they do the sponsors and the prize givings, just everything is done A to Z top class.”
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 tomorrow,” 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 tomorrow."
Source: Press release from Spruce Meadows Media Services // Picture © Spruce Meadows Media Services
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