WELLINGTON, Fla,--Irish Olympic bronze medalist Cian O’Connor won the $75,000 Grand Prix riding Lazzaro Delle Schiave to close out opening week of the Winter Equestrian Festival on Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
From a 46-horse field, 17 advanced to the jump-off set by course designer Eric Hasbrouck.
Returning sixth, O’Connor and 11-year-old Italian Sporthorse gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave stopped the clock in a time of 35.956 seconds, a time that would eventually take the victory by less than a half a second over runner-up Molly Ashe Cawley riding Balous Day Date to a time of 36.455 seconds.
“We went early and I knew there were some fast ones and good ones behind me, so I took out a few strides, particularly to the last, and really used my horse’s strength there,” said O’Connor, who has settled in Wellington for the duration of the season with his three top horses. “The course was fast and a nice test for the rest of the circuit.”
O’CONNOR has only had the ride on Lazzaro Delle Schiave, a horse previously campaigned by Italian rider Massimo Grossato, for two months.
The pair, however, has wasted no time finding success by winning a CSI2* in Europe before heading to Wellington to open up the season on top.
“This year is a big year for me and for team Ireland,” said O’Connor, who is a hopeful for a spot on the Irish show jumping team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “So, I wanted to come here to try and be in shape physically and also on the horses during three months of intense riding and working. I came out here today to try and win this class, and it’s great that it happened."
“The main goal is to try and be up and running coming out of here and take what we can on the way, but not to overdo any of the horses,” said O’Connor. “It’s only the build-up of the season toward the rest of the year, and obviously the goal all year in the back of my mind is Tokyo.”
Third in the Grand Prix was Brianne Goutal-Marteau riding Zernike K with a double-clear performance in 37.708 seconds.
Fourth went to Schuyler Riley and Iceman de Muze in a time of 38.516 seconds, while Tomas Yofre of Argentina was fifth on Kavalli di Magico in 39.019 seconds.