IRELAND’s impressive run of results at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida continued last night (Sunday), as Limerick’s Paul O’Shea led an Irish domination of the two-star $50,000 Equiline Grand Prix.
O’Shea and the 10-year-old gelding Imerald van’t Voorhof, owned by Tequestrian Farms LLC, were last to go in an 11 horse jump-off and they scorched to victory – crossing the line clear in 36.84 seconds after a daring gallop to the last fence.
Second place went to fellow Irishman – Co Down’s Conor Swail on GK Coco Chanel, owned by Vanessa Mannix. They had jumped clear in 38.24 to finish just ahead of American rider Rebecca Conway and Salitos in third (38.55).
“I had the advantage of going last, which was obviously a big help because when I walked the jump-off, I didn’t know if there would be seven strides to the double or eight strides to the last,” said O’Shea. “But then after seeing Becky (Conway) and a few other people go, it was really there and that was a big help today.”
O’Shea has been riding Imerald for a year. “He is owned by the Tisbo family and I am very grateful to them for letting me ride him. Lauren was here to watch him and support us.”
O’Shea said of Imerald: “He is extremely scopey and brave and has a massive stride. That was useful today with the long gallops, like down to the double (combination). To be able to really open him up, his stride and scope was a big help to the last fence.”
Swail has been riding GK Coco Chanel since July, but after competing at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto in November, he has not sat on the horse since.
“He has had a nice break and we have done a few smaller things with him here and there with my rider, James Chalke; he has kept him going very nicely for me,” he said. “I just appeared this week and I have to say the horse feels really good and he jumped very, very well today.”
Fifth place also went to an Irish rider, with Jonathan Corrigan and the Irish Sport Horse Loughnavatta Indigo jumping clear in 39.75.