Irish eyes were smiling on a day that started with overcast skies and a hint of rain, but ended in brilliant sunshine in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, as Paul O'Shea and his long-time partner Instant Karma topped a strong field of fifty-five competitors to take the win in the $20,000 ESP Welcome Stake class, the first of the big money classes headed into the big weekend here at the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament.
Munich, Germany's Olaf Petersen, Jr. is designing the tests out on the huge grass field and today came up with the perfect course, one that yielded fourteen clear rides from the fifty-five that went to the post. Of those fourteen, eight horse and rider combinations went on to be double clear in the chase for the title over the short course.
"I think it worked out pretty well," said Petersen. "The thing is, it's only a 1.40m class, but it has to be a little more difficult. It was technical enough with three combinations and some of the jumps at 1.45m. Also, I'm trying to judge how good is the level of riders and horses for the Sunday grand prix. My plan was not to scare them already, but to see what I had in the class," he said.
The first to master the first round course and first pair to return, Charlie Jacobs and CMJ Sporthorses' Flaming Star made it look easy the second time around as well, dodging the in-ring photographer and still putting up a stellar time of 45.025 seconds, a time that in the end, would be a half a second too slow.
Darragh Kenny challenged next with the flashy chestnut Quiz, owned by Oakland Ventures, but crossed the finish line 9/10ths of a second off the pace set by Jacobs, tripping the timers in 45.961 seconds.
And then, as the third to go, O'Shea and his mare sealed the deal on the Welcome Stake. With a quick start over fence #1, O'Shea and Instant Karma were off and running and never let up until the end. Neat and tidy all the way around and then a great cut to the double combination headed for home and a fast gallop to the final oxer set O'Shea up for the win as he raced across the finish line in 44.547 seconds, the only rider on the day to break through the 45 second barrier.
"She's been a great mare for me," said a beaming O'Shea following his victory gallop. "I've had her since she was a foal, so a long time. I bought her with a friend of mine and she's been a really, really successful mount for me."
O'Shea talked about his winning ride. "I thought to come to the first jump on the left rein. I thought that would be a faster approach and it turned out to be right," he explained. "It gave me a straighter line to the second fence. Coming around to fence #9, it was important to stick close to the oxer in passing and we did that. Fence nine was a big enough oxer, that's for sure. And then it was a matter of keeping the pace through the turn for home, over the double combination. Finally, it was eight very long strides to the last fence. I saw Charlie Jacobs, the first to go, was able to get the eight, so I thought I'd have a go at it too," he said.
O'Shea found a great gallop to that final fence and Instant Karma gave him a huge effort to seal the win. "Walking the course, that was actually a normal ten stride walk, so you think, going against the clock you could do nine, right? But to get the eight strides, you really have to go to get that and we did."
"She's very good in her turns, very rideable, very balanced and that's makes it a lot easier to get the job done," O'Shea added. "But, I really think I won it going to number one, I think I saved a lot of time coming off that left rein."
"I love this place. I think it's the nicest show I've ever been to really," O'Shea commented. "It's a beautiful setting. It's a dream for any horse or rider. The ground is absolutely fantastic and they have everything for us. Food, fruit, water, they even have carrots for the horses, they just really want to look after us and make sure we're happy. The stalls are huge. I can't say enough nice things about this show."
Speaking of the big grand prix field O'Shea noted, "A good grass surface is very rare these days. The horses love it and we riders really love it, so it's great to have that." "Hopefully I'll have three horses ready to go on Sunday and we can bring that one home as well," he said in conclusion.
Finishing in fourth place, almost four seconds off the winning pace was Ramiro Quintana and St. Bride's Farms' Whitney. Quintana tripped the timers in 48.416 seconds. Fifth place went to Goodwin's Loyalty, owned and shown by Kevin Babington. They crossed the finish line in 48.531 seconds. Babington nailed down sixth place as well, stopping the clock in 49.119 seconds on Shorapur, owned by Shorapur LLC.
$20,000 ESP Open Welcome Stake
1-277 $6000 Instant Karma - O'Shea, Paul - O'Shea, Paul 0-0/44.547
2-102 $4400 Flaming Star - CMJ Sporthorse LLC -Jacobs, Charles 0-0/45.025
3-155 $2600 Quiz - Oakland Ventures - Kenny, Darragh 0-0/45.961
4-251 $1600 Whitney - St Bride's Farm - Quintana, Ramiro 0-0/48.416
5-227 $1200 Goodwins Loyalty -Babington, Kevin Babington, Kevin 0-0/48.531
6-230 $1000 Shorapur - Shorapur LLC -Babington, Kevin 0-0/49.119
7-252 $900 Ziedento - St Bride's Farm - Quintana, Ramiro 0-0/49.37
8-109 $900 Lilli - Gotham Enterprizes LLC Bloomberg, Georgina 0-0/60.034
9-240 $700 Tic - Tac - Forbes-Clark, Jane - Howard, Leslie 0-4/46.33
10-173 $700 Wayfarer - Lionshare Farm - Leone, Peter 0-4/47.345
11-204 $000 Wizz O'Shea, Paul -O'Shea, Paul0-4/52.097
12-112 $000 Ak's Clowney - Societe Civile De L'ecurie - Peter Wylde 0-4/48.309
Source: Phelps Media Group, Inc. International.
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