THE highlight of the Winter Equestrian Festival at Wellington International at the weekend was the five-star $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix on Saturday. Among the 39 starters, there were a significant seven Irish entries. Nine combinations jumped clear over the first-round track set by Brazilian course designer, Guilherme Jorge, including two of the Irish pairs, namely Offaly’s Darragh Kenny on VDL Cartello and Meath’s Cian O’Connor on Maurice.

Unfortunately, Kenny and O’Connor each had a fence down in the jump-off, with Kenny the fastest of the four-faulters to take sixth place in a time of 38.23 seconds. O’Connor’s time of 40.27 seconds secured ninth place.

The winning round came from Germany’s Christian Kukuk and Checker 47, whose time of 35.82 seconds could not be beaten. Second place went to McLain Ward (USA) on Ilex (36.24), with another American rider, Karl Cook on Kalinka Van’T Zorgvliet, in third (36.62).

Top spot

Friday saw Kilkenny’s Richie Moloney on the 11-year-old gelding Sherlock 46 taking the top spot in the $32,000 two-star 1.45m Qualifier.

From the 70 starters, there were 20 clear first rounds, with 13 of those proceeding to the jump-off and 10 combinations managing to keep all the fences intact again second time out.

Moloney was among the double clears and his speedy jump-off round, in 38.38 seconds, proved to be the winning one. It was close at the top, with Colombia’s Mark Bluman on S&L Gliludium Riverland stopping the clock in 38.57 seconds to take second place, while third place went to Peter Lutz (USA) on Hollerno (39.18).

Philip McGuane on Paso Doble SCF placed eighth in the class, with Jenny Rankin on Ibiza in 10th.

Darragh Kenny on VDL Cartello placed sixth in the five-star $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix at Wellington International on Saturday \ Sportfot

In the ribbons

Week 12, the concluding week of the Winter Equestrian Festival at Wellington International, began on Wednesday, March 27th, when Conor Swail and Casturano placed sixth in the $1,000 FEI 5* 1.40m class, followed by Andrew Bourns and Sea Topblue in ninth. Swail followed this with a win in the $32,000 FEI 5* 1.45m class riding Gamble.

The $2,500 1.35m Open Jumper class saw Jonathan Corrigan place second on Casaltan, with Robert Blanchette both third on Abra Kadabra VD Heide Z and sixth on Azmir D’Asbo Z, while the $6,000 1.40m Open Jumper class saw Jordan Coyle on Costa Diam in fourth, with Corrigan placing fifth on Fair Play and 10th on Darius De Kerglenn.

Thursday had a great start for the Irish, when McGuane rode Linguini De La Pomme to win the $12,000 FEI 2* 1.45m class, followed by Stephen Moore on Eleanor in sixth.

As reported last week, the $117,000 FEI 5* WEF Challenge Cup Round 12 saw a fantastic performance from Irish riders, with Swail on Casturano taking the win; Bourns on Sea Topblue in third; Daniel Coyle on Incredible in fourth and Cian O’Connor on Fancy De Kergane in ninth.

The $6,000 1.40m Open Jumper class saw Max Wachman on Koulon Van Het Maaskantje finish ninth, while in the Seven-year-old Young Jumper class, Corrigan placed fifth with Rembrandt.

Friday’s $62,500 FEI 5* 1.50m class saw a sixth place for Daniel Coyle on Jasper (64.39), with O’Connor in ninth on Eve D’Ouilly (64.60), when they were among 23 of the 64 starters to go clear. The winning time of 61.50 seconds set by America’s Karl Cook on Caracole De La Roque, simply couldn’t be caught.

Corrigan took third place in the day’s $6,000 1.40m Open Jumper class on Darius De Kerglenn, followed by Michael Hutchinson on Labaomi W in eighth. Blanchette on Abra Kadabra VD Heide Z were runners-up in the $2,500 1.35m Open Jumper class. The Seven-year-old Young Jumper class saw James Brennan on More Special finishing fifth, while in the $6,000 1.40m Open Jumper class, Kenny on Jamaica finished seventh and also took ninth with Chic Chic.

In Sunday’s $62,500 FEI 2* Grand Prix, Darragh Kerins placed fourth with Lissino, followed by Stephen Moore on Colibelle Hero Z in seventh.

The $50,000 1.50m National Grand Prix saw a ninth place finish for Kenny on Diva Karef BH, while Sarah Kerins placed 10th on Centriko Volo to conclude WEF 2024 and another great show for the Irish.