The Devon Horse Show's famous Dixon Oval hosted an exciting evening of grand prix show jumping Thursday night as fans watched Ireland's Paul O'Shea and Primo de Revel jump to victory in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon, sponsored by Main Line Dental, Land Rover, and Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC. In his first time ever competing at Devon, O'Shea took the victory gallop in front of thousands of cheering spectators in the highlight event of the week.
Olaf Petersen, Jr. set the course for thirty-one entries in Thursday's $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon with nine clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. Four riders qualified two horses each, including USA's McLain Ward and Laura Chapot, and Ireland's Paul O'Shea and Kevin Babington. The short course saw five entries jump clear in the second round.
O'Shea set the pace with the first double clear round aboard Gotham Enterprizes' River Dance Semilly in 43.63 seconds, which eventually finished fifth. Last year's winners, McLain Ward and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild, upped the ante in the next round, stopping the clock in a blazing 40.79 seconds to place third. Laura Chapot and Quointreau Un Prince, who she owns in partnership with Ward, put in the fourth place round in 41.95 seconds. O'Shea went next with his second mount, Primo de Revel, and raced to the winning time of 38.95 seconds. The final clear jump-off round belonged to Todd Minikus and the Quality Group's Quality Girl, who jumped into second place in 39.63 seconds despite breaking a rein on the third to last jump.
Primo de Revel, owned by Michael Hayden, is a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Quinault x Lys de Darmen. O'Shea has had the horse for seven years and has had a great partnership with him, including 11 grand prix victories. Although they have had many wins, this was one of the biggest, and it was a great moment in the rider's career.
"What can I say? I loved it," O'Shea said of his first Devon experience. "The atmosphere is obviously very special here. The crowd really gets into it, and it is just an incredible atmosphere and feeling here. I originally came to America through Harry Gill and Sherry Robertson, so I actually lived 20 minutes from here when I first came to America. I wasn't at the show, but I know the area, so it is nice to be back here again."
Commenting on the trust that he had in Primo de Revel to really go for the win in the jump-off, O'Shea detailed, "I have had him seven years now, so we know each other very well, and he is an extremely competitive horse. He is very rideable. He has a very good canter, so you can go quite fast on him and he doesn't get long and flat. He is experienced against the clock. I watched McLain go, and I thought I just had to go as fast as I could. Everything worked out tonight."
"He has been great since the start," the rider further described. "He has a fantastic mind; that is his best trait I think. From one show to the next I never jump him because he is so easy, which is very unusual. He is just so balanced, and he just knows what to do. Obviously I don't want to do too much with him, so I keep him fit on the flat and maybe jump once or twice for the first show of the year, but after that he just competes. I think that atmosphere here tonight helped him a little bit too. Some horses might get worse, but it actually raised him up."
Last year's winner McLain Ward did his best to defend his title with Rothchild this year, but ended up third. "He's been here a few years. He won here last year when it was a little bit of a slower jump-off," Ward noted of Rothchild. "Where I went in the order, it was the right round. It was just an amazing jump-off. Todd is one of the fastest riders in the world and Paul kicked his butt. I don't think it was going to be very easy to beat him tonight. I don't think there was much room."
Thursday's Grand Prix kicked off the 2014 Taylor Harris Insurance Services Triple Crown Challenge. As the night's winner, O'Shea will have the opportunity to claim a $200,000 rider bonus if he and Primo de Revel can go on to win at the Hampton Classic Grand Prix and then again at the National Horse Show Grand Prix in Kentucky. O'Shea accepted a special award as the winner of the first leg of the challenge. For his grand prix victory, O'Shea was awarded with The Celeste McNeal Harper Perpetual Trophy. He was also presented with the Richard E. McDevitt Style Award, earning The Richard E. McDevitt Style Trophy donated by Mr. Wade L. McDevitt.
Final Results: $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon
1. PAUL O'SHEA PRIMO DE REVEL MICHAEL HAYDEN: 0/0/38.951
2. TODD MINIKUS QUALITY GIRL QUALITY GROUP: 0/0/39.633
3. MCLAIN WARD ROTHCHILD SAGAMORE FARMS: 0/0/40.798
4. LAURA CHAPOT QUOINTREAU UN PRINCE LAURA CHAPOT & MCLAIN WARD: 0/0/41.953
5. PAUL O'SHEA RIVER DANCE SEMILLY GOTHAM ENTERPRIZES LLC: 0/0/43.633
6. KEVIN BABINGTON SHORAPUR SHORAPUR LLC: 0/4/40.861
7. MCLAIN WARD HH ASHLEY DOUBLE H FARM: 0/4/42.266
8. LAURA CHAPOT ISHD DUAL STAR MARY CHAPOT: 0/4/42.562
9. KEVIN BABINGTON MARK Q KEVIN BABINGTON: 0/4/43.355
10. KELSEY THATCHER ATHENA PONY LANE FARM: 4/76.522
11. LILLIE KEENAN PUMPED UP KICKS CHANSONETTE FARM LLC: 4/77.039
12. SYDNEY SHULMAN QUIDAM 13 BACK COUNTRY FARM: 4/77.121
Source: Press release by Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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