AUSTIN O’Connor and the Salty Syndicate’s five-star winning hero Colorado Blue have wasted no time in establishing their form this season, when brilliantly filling the runner-up spot in the prestigious Grantham Cup CCI4* at the Thoresby Park Spring International last weekend. Contending the feature class, which sported a start list of eventing royalty both equine and human, the pair were in contention from the get go and, foot-perfect in both jumping phases, completed behind winners Emily King with Valmy Biats. Posting the fastest time of the day and in the best of company, O’Connor edged ahead of the third placed world champions Ros Canter and Banzai du Loir, as well as Tim Price with his Olympic partner Vitali.

“It’s great to be back out and it all worked well,” said O’Connor. “Despite the weather, the team at Thoresby pulled out all the stops to run and it ended being very safe ground.” Speaking of his scorching round across the country he added, “Salty is a horse you always have to ride competitively and, had the ground been perfect, he would have easily made the time. He has wintered well and, if anything, has come out stronger and better again – which is great!”

While future plans are yet to be finalised, the pair will definitely bypass Badminton this year and, with the immediate focus being selection for the Paris Olympics, may run again at Burnham Market and/or Bramham.

Speedy Scala

Another speedy Irishman to complete in the top 20, was Fred Scala, who teaming up with his own Everon Vivendi, made up over 40 places to ride into an eventual 16th placing. This was a rewarding result for the English-based Scala, who was returning to the top flight following Everon Vivendi’s injury nearly three years ago. “It was not our best dressage, but we’ve been out for a long time,” he said. “Cross-country however, he was brilliant and it was just like putting on an old pair of slippers. Now we have tuned up our system a bit, we can hopefully be more competitive next time out. We definitely went home happy!”

While O’Connor and Scala were Ireland’s only representatives in the feature Grantham Cup, a further three went to post in the accompanying CCI4*-S. Suzanne Jordan and OBOS Take One enjoyed a good spin to complete in the top 20, but less happily Sian Coleman (Hush A Bye Baby) took a fall at the corners, while having jumped a clear round show jumping, Declan Cullen later walked home from the country with Seavaghan Ash.

Susie Berry and Monbeg By Design won the second division of the Open Intermediate class at the Thoresby Park Spring International \ Equus Pix

Having been in the mix at Kronenburg the previous week, Susie Berry was back in storming form to head two strongly contested sectors of the Open Intermediate. Riding for Helen Caton in both instances, Berry first partnered Ringwood LB who, by adding just time penalties to his opening score of 29.3, turned the tables on the slower Heidi Coy and MGH Jessica. Berry went on to repeat the feat in the second division, in which she led from the front with her world championship partner, Monbeg By Design.

Never far from the action, Berry was also prominent in the CCI3*-S, where partnering the Dutch-bred mare Irena Leva, she filled sixth spot behind compatriot Georgie Goss with Kojak.