LESS than 48 hours after helping Ireland to second place in the Italian Nations Cup, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor has added another runner-up finish, this time in the €400,000 Rolex five-star Grand Prix of Rome.
Riding the 11-year-old mare Irenice Horta, who is owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd, O’Connor posted the fastest of just four clears in the first round, to give him the best position as last to go in the second round.
The top 11 combinations from the first round advanced to the decider, including Offaly’s Darragh Kenny who knocked just the very last fence in the first round with Balou Du Reventon.
Kenny and O’Connor were looking to join an elite list of Irish riders who have won the historic Rome Grand Prix. Past Irish winners in the Italian capital include John Lewis with Limerick Lace in 1938, Colonel William Ringrose with Loch an Easpaig in 1961, Eddie Macken with Boomerang in 1978 and more recently, Denis Lynch with Lantinus in 2008.
Kenny posted a clear second time out in a very fast time of 37.86 and that would see him finish fourth to collect €40,000.
O’Connor entered the arena as last to go knowing he had to jump clear in faster than 39.47 to take the winners prize. He managed to keep all the poles standing to complete a double clear performance, with a time of 40.64 giving him a runner-up finish and €80,000.
The winner's prize of €100,000 went to Israel’s Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z, while Belgium’s Oliver Philippaerts finished third with the only other double clear round with H&M Extra (41.73).
Speaking afterwards, London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist O’Connor was delighted with how Irenice Horta performed, saying: “Rome show in Piazza di Sienna is one of those great events steeped in tradition. The imposing grass arena was fantastic to ride in and Irenice enjoyed every minute of it. Its our first major Grand Prix together and I couldn’t be happier how she performed.”
The result crowned an excellent weekend for Irish riders in Rome, with Co Louth’s Mark McAuley named Leading Rider of the Show following a win and several top six placings.