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David O’Brien does it again during ESP Spring Series

Saturday, 13 April 2024
CSI3* Wellington International 2024

Photo © Sportfot. David O’Brien & El Balou OLD, winners of the $32,000 Freejump CSI3* Grand Prix Qualifier. Photo © Sportfot.


Press release from Wellington International



David O’Brien (IRL) is on his way to a winning streak after scoring his second victory in as many days in the $32,000 Freejump CSI3* Grand Prix Qualifier on Friday during the second week of the 2024 ESP Spring Series, presented by Florida Coast Equipment. The win came on 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion El Balou OLD on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village, home of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival during the winter season. 

The Spring Series at Wellington International runs for three weeks as part of the ESP Annual Series and concludes on May 12.

Mexico’s Ana Catalina “Catsy” Cruz designed the courses for 52 athletes. Clear rounds were few and far between during the first half of the class, but came like a storm near the end of the day. Twelve jumped clear in the opening round with 11 electing to jump off. 

O’Brien left nothing to chance and took the win by nearly two full seconds (40.89) over Andrew Welles (USA) riding Idol H&H (Action-Breaker x Glennridge). Welles finished second in 42.22 seconds for owners Itasca Group & Evergreen Stables. Rounding out the podium for the second day in a row, Lebanon’s Jad Dana was third riding Caro W (Castelan II x Aragorn), owned by Peter Howard & Laure Sudreau, with a jump-off time of 42.57 seconds. 

O’Brien is coming off a successful circuit with El Balou OLD (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x Balou du Rouet) with four international podiums during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), including leading the Irish team to victory in the CSIO4* Nations Cup, presented by Florida Coast Equipment.

Photo © Sportfot. David O’Brien & El Balou OLD, are presented as winners of the $32,000 Freejump CSI3* Grand Prix Qualifier with Sarah O'Brien. Photo © Sportfot.

“We showed four weeks during circuit and he was incredible,” said O’Brien. “He hasn’t shown since week nine. He lives to be at the show and was happy to be back in the ring. In this big, open field I can let him loose and have him really travel.”

El Balou OLD has been piloted by O’Brien since 2021, but officially joined his string at Leap Year Farm at the beginning of 2023. The former mount of Lillie Keenan (USA), El Balou OLD has proved a tricky horse to produce.

“He’s all blood and has more energy than any horse I’ve ever sat on,” said O’Brien, who admitted that he managed the stallion's energy at the start of the week by riding him the nearly four miles to the show. “He loves being here because he likes people being around him all the time. My wife, Sarah, is taking care of him this week and he’ll do anything for her.”

El Balou OLD is owned together by O’Brien and his wife, Sarah, and Keenan’s Chansonette Farm. “He's really the reason I was able to start my own business and I’m forever grateful to the Keenan’s for trusting me with him, supporting me in the beginning and allowing me to buy a share of this horse as well,” said O’Brien. “Without them and obviously my wife, I wouldn't get all these chances. I think this horse knows he’s my number-one and that’s why he tries so hard for me.”

O’Brien and Il Balou OLD will next tackle Sunday’s $140,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix. “I feel like we have a good grand prix win coming at some point; he's been close a few times and I think he has something in there that’s going to give us something special soon,” said O’Brien.


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