Ireland's Cian O'Connor is back in Wellington for the remaining weeks of competition at the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival after an exciting 2012 season. Following a fantastic Florida circuit last winter, O'Connor and his top mount, Blue Loyd 12, traveled to London to earn an individual bronze medal in this summer's Olympic Games. Blue Loyd was recently sold to young Canadian rider Nicole Walker, and O'Connor is in Wellington helping the pair get acquainted as well as showing some of his new horses. O'Connor got his first win of the circuit in this morning's $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge aboard one of those horses, Walk Tall II, owned by Ronnoco Jump, Ltd.
Walk Tall II is an eleven-year-old Anglo European gelding by Kannan x Farhaan. He previously showed with Irish rider Keith Doyle and won last year's Queen's Cup in Hickstead. O'Connor got the horse just before coming to Florida, so this is their first show together. Showing in Friday's 1.40m Speed Challenge, O'Connor and Walk Tall II won it with the fastest of two clear rounds out of 20 entries. Jumping a course set by Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL, their time of 67.713 seconds beat Daniel Michan and Darius 2 with the only other clear jumping effort in 68.887 seconds. Alex Granato and Gangsta finished third with the fastest four-fault round in 58.664 seconds.
"Walk Tall II is a very good horse," O'Connor said after his win. "I hope he is a proper grand prix horse. I am going to use WEF to produce him for the bigger classes in the summer and I will be aiming him at the big grand prix at the end of circuit here. Like always, when you get a new horse, it takes time to gel and to figure out what bridle and how much leg pressure and so on. Today I dropped him down to the 1.40m and just cantered around and he won it very easily."
"The course was difficult enough," O'Connor noted. "The last double caught out a lot of horses. It was a spooky blue double. A lot of horses were clear until then and faster and knocked it down, so I just went for a neat, clear round and it paid off."
O'Connor arrived in Wellington last week and has plans for several of his own horses in addition to helping Blue Loyd and his new rider. "One of the main reasons I am here is to help Nicole gel with him," O'Connor explained. "That is fun because I get to still work with the horse and see him go. She is getting on really well with him, so it will be good fun to watch them progress in the coming weeks. Then, in order to keep myself busy, I brought some horses as well, so it should be a good couple of weeks."
"I have a different string this year," the rider detailed. "I have a very nice horse named Splendor who will probably jump in the Nation's Cup next week. He was double clear and fifth in the 1.50m last Sunday. I have him and then I have some good young horses that I am producing for the future as well."
Also showing on Friday, fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny won the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class riding Alexander, LLC's Everest de Muze. Week seven of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue on Saturday with a full schedule of hunter and jumper competition, including the final classes for the junior hunters and amateur-owner 3'6" divisions to determine who qualifies for tomorrow night's USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. The highlight jumper class is the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at The Stadium at 1 p.m. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge
1. WALK TALL II CIAN O'CONNOR RONNOCO JUMP LTD: 0/67.713
2. DARIUS 2 DANIEL MICHAN DANIEL MICHAN: 0/68.887
3. GANGSTA ALEX GRANATO ALEX GRANATO: 4/58.664
4. IMPRIMIS DONALD CHESKA WINDSWEPT FARM: 4/59.215
5. WONDERGIRL LAUREN HOUGH LAUREN HOUGH: 4/59.775
6. DON CHIQUI DANIELA CORDERO DANIELA CORDERO: 4/59.925
7. ACTIVO VANESSA MANNIX VANESSA MANNIX: 4/64.855
8. ALWAYS THERE LORENZO DE LUCA MICHAEL COLLINS: 4/66.229
9. PANAMA TAME PAIGE JOHNSON SALAMANDER FARM: 4/67.471
10. UNGARO DE LA HOT COUTURE JENNIFER GODDARDSTATESIDE FARM, LLC: 4/68.018 11. CARIBE STEVE SCHAEFER STEVE SCHAEFER: 8/57.843
12. COLGATE PABLO BARRIOS PABLO BARRIOS: 8/60.150
Source: Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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