THE final week of FEI three-star competition at the World Equestrian Centre in Ocala, Florida, started well for Ireland’s Simon McCarthy on his debut at the show, when he and Gotcha, owned by Rock Ridge Farms, won the $5,000 CSI3* 1.45m Speed class last Wednesday, February 28th.

Mexico’s Catsy Cruz designed the course, where there were six clear rounds from the nine starters.

McCarthy and Gotcha (Stakkato x Cassini I), jumped a fast clear, crossing the line in 58.61 seconds to take the win. Reflecting on the course, McCarthy expressed his admiration: “Catsy Cruz is one of my favourite course designers. I won my first international Grand Prix when she was designing, so she has a soft place in my heart. She’s brilliant, everything flowed really nice, and this ring is unbelievable.”

The 13-year-old Holsteiner mare, Gotcha, is special to McCarthy: “I’ve had Gotcha for three years now. She’s unbelievable. She’s a prolific winner all around the States. She’s been unreal for me. She’s won a lot of my first ranking classes and Grands Prix. We’ve jumped five-stars, so I feel like I am cheating a little bit, winning this class on her, but a win is a win,” laughed McCarthy. “However, she’s just coming back, this is her second week competing this year. She jumped the two-star in Wellington and won the Grand Prix qualifier there. It’s nice to get a blue ribbon from a place we’ve never been before.

“I was stunned when I drove up here this morning. I still haven’t had the time to take it all in to be honest. I tried exploring this morning, but after a half an hour, I only got to see a 10th of it,” he said of the venue. “We are definitely going to check it out and we are staying in [The Equestrian Hotel] tonight, so I am pretty excited about that too.”

Adam Sklansky (USA), who won week seven’s CSI3* 1.45m Speed class, claimed second place with Hakini, a 12-year-old KWPN mare by Numero Uno x Montreal, owned by Ellen Walker, with a quick round in 59.04 seconds.

Aaron Vale (USA) has had a run of good form and secured another podium finish, this time on board Donald Stewart’s Styles (Cornet Obolensky x Canturo). Vale and eight-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding rode an efficient clear round in 62.43 seconds.

In the ribbons

The show continued on Thursday, when Daniel Coyle had two in the top 10 of the $1,000 1.35m class, when placing sixth with Amalia and seventh with Jasper.

Coyle then had another two top 10 placings in the $15,000 Futures Prix 1.40m class on Saturday, when finishing fourth with Amalia and sixth with Lena VDL, all owned by Ariel Grange.

Saturday’s highlight was the $100,000 FEI CSI3* Grand Prix, where Coyle rode Legacy into seventh place, with an uncharacteristic pole down in the jump-off. The pair’s time of 36.70 seconds would otherwise have won the class!

It was an All-American top six, with the win going to Aaron Vale on Prescott, who jumped double clear with a jump-off time of 37.30 seconds.

Sunday brought another good placing for Coyle when he rode Jasper into fifth place in the $50,000 WEC Grand Prix. The class was won by USA’s Lillie Keenan on Lezaro with the only double clear of the class.