THE Irish have had another wonderful weekend at Wellington International in Florida, as the third week of the ESP Spring series was held.

Simon McCarthy kicked off proceedings last Thursday, when he steered Gotcha into the top spot in the $32,000 three-star 1.45m class, where they were the best of 63 starters to claim the first prize of $10,560.

McCarthy and the 13-year-old mare, owned by Rock Ridge Farms, highlighted the strength of their partnership, when they were third into the ring in the second round, and jumped double clear over Andy Christiansen Jr. (USA)’s course. They clocked a jump-off time of 30.42 seconds that could not be caught, although American runner-up, Kelli Cruciotti-Vanderveen on Forever SFN came close, finishing just 0.6 seconds behind in 31.02. Third place went to British rider Grace Debney on Boheme de la Roque, who were a mere 0.02 seconds slower than Cruciotti-Vanderveen in 31.04 seconds. Co Down’s Dermott Lennon placed sixth in the class riding King Kannan GP.

“I knew I needed to get through the first phase and then go for it,” said McCarthy. “In the last couple of lines there was a leave out, which I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do. When I was there, I kicked, closed my eyes and hoped I got there. And she was right with me, so I think that’s what was the winning factor at the end.”

Gotcha, a Holsteiner mare (Stakkato x Cassini I), is now McCarthy’s number one mount, as his other horse, Athletix Hero Z, was sold to compete in the under 25 grand prix ranks. McCarthy had a great winter season in Wellington, recording seven top-five international finishes.

“She’s in great form; probably the best form she’s ever been in,” said McCarthy. “She’s given me more wins than any horse has ever given me, and we know each other unbelievably well. I was away for the last four days and today was the first time I’d ridden her since the middle of last week. That’s a testament to my team that they’re able to keep the horses happy and healthy and fit.”

McCarthy and his students at Rock Ridge Farm intend to split their time between Connecticut and New York this summer, so will soon be moving on from Wellington.

Jordan Coyle and Costa Diam won the $32,000 Equine Tack & Nutritionals CSI3* 1.45m Speed class at Wellington International on Saturday \ Sportfot


Jordan Coyle was also on form at Wellington, when he and the 12-year-old mare Costa Diam claimed victory in the $32,000 three-star 1.45m class on Saturday.

From the 65 starters, 27 jumped clear within the time allowed, but there was a considerable difference between their times. Paul O’Shea on Hellcat were first in and rode clear in a fast time of 61.22 seconds; despite being pathfinders, O’Shea’s time remained the fastest for much of the class.

Canada’s Erynn Ballard and Ginger Ask were the 41st combination to jump and their time of 60.51 seconds put O’Shea into second place. Lebanon’s Jad Dana then rode Fleur-De-Lis’ Cherie clear in 60.37 to take the lead.

Coyle, having already ridden around the course on Keep Me With You NC, round a fantastic round on Costa Diam, stopping the clock in 59.23 seconds, which none of the remaining combinations could beat.

The win is all the more meaningful, considering the mare has just recently returned to competition, following a year-long recovery from injury.

“We had Costa for about 10 months, with quite high expectations, when she got an injury,” said Coyle of the Selle Français mare (Componist Champblanc x Allegreto), owned by Elan Farm. “Unfortunately, that was it for us. This is only our second FEI week back. It’s taken exactly one year to get her back to the show ring.”

Costa Diam had sustained a deep digital flexor injury during a Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington last year. Her recovery included many months of rest, hand walks and slowly bringing her back to fitness.

“I have to give them [Elan Farm grooms Marketa Churova and Miša Honzova] 90% of the credit because they did most of the work to get her back and it was a serious job,” said Coyle.

Exactly a year following her injury, Costa Diam jumped a 1.15m at WEF and has been gradually moving up since then.

“She’s quite easy, so building her back was just about taking our time,” continued Coyle. “We did a 1.20m, then a 1.30m and then a 1.40m. I would almost say that she’s a better horse now than she was when we got her.”

Costa Diam has been part of the Elan Farm string since the end of the 2022 winter season, having previously been ridden by Jordan’s cousin Christian Coyle in the National Grand Prix ranks.

“We have taken our time because I think she’s a very good horse; she’s mostly careful, but also easy to ride and has enough scope,” said Jordan. “It’s great to have her back and now we are going to have a bit of fun and not put her under too much pressure. For sure she’s going to win a lot.”

Robert Blanchette on Carnlea Premier Balou won the Zen Elite Equestrian 1.35m Open Jumper Stake at Wellington International on Saturday \ Sportfot


Week three of the ESP Spring Series had commenced at Wellington International last Wednesday, April 17th, with show jumping classes getting underway on Thursday, when Ireland’s Robert Blanchette and Carnlea Premier Balou won the 1.35m Open Jumper class, followed by Dermott Lennon on Cordiamo in third and Andrew Bourns on Q in sixth. In the day’s Six-year-old 1.25m Young Jumper class, James Brennan on Inka Malpic placed third.

Friday saw Brennan on Quasibelle VD Barre Hoogte Z place fifth in the 1.25m Open Jumper class, followed by Ronan McGuigan on Coco Chanel 286 in sixth, both having jumped double clears. The 1.35m Open Jumper class saw Shane Sweetnam ride Honey Heart to take fourth place.

The $10,000 1.40m Open Jumper Stake saw Bourns on Copy Champ place fifth, with Lennon on Cordiamo in seventh, while in the $32,000 FEI CSI3* Grand Prix Qualifier, Darragh Kerins placed joint seventh on Lissino.

Blanchette rode Carnlea Premier Balou to win Saturday’s $5,000 1.35m Open Jumper Stake, followed by Kevin Mealiff on Lodewijk in seventh.

In Sunday’s $35,000 Spring Grand Prix, Blanchette was best of the Irish, placing seventh with Azmir D’ Asbo Z, while in the $140,000 FEI CSI3* Grand Prix, Brennan was eighth on board Reemah OL.