Cian O’Connor on Olympic trail with Good Luck

Cian O’Connor continued to demonstrate the Olympic credentials of Good Luck on Saturday, the pair finishing fourth in the five-star grand prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida.

Ireland is on course to secure two places at Rio de Janeiro through Bertram Allen and Denis Lynch, but it is the prerogative of the Irish manager Robert Splaine as to who will make the trip to South America. The 10-year-old stallion is on many lips as a horse with the talent to secure O’Connor and Ireland another medal, after the Meath-based rider won bronze in London. The horse’s elevation over fences brings out gasps from audiences, as it did on Saturday, when O’Connor had to be at his best to stay in the saddle such was the height Good Luck produced over the water jump.

O’Connor was one of just four to overcome the tough opening round in the $380,000 contest, but lowered one in the second round and yesterday he noted how Good Luck, aka Luke, is at home over bigger obstacles.

“I was delighted with “Luke” last night. He’s really at ease jumping the biggest courses and it was great to be one of just four clears in the toughest grand prix we have seen at WEF to date this season.

“I’ll rest him now for a few weeks and then aim at the $1m Grand Prix in Ocala [Florida] next month before returning to Europe in April.”

American McLain Ward, riding HH Azur, collected his second five-star grand prix win in three weeks, coming out ahead of The Netherlands Harrie Smolders in second with Apollonia, while Brazil’s Doda De Miranda slotted into third place with Ad Cornetto K.

Meanwhile, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) is reported to be planning to discuss today or tomorrow the results of the Moscow Olympic dressage qualifying event in a controversy that could have a bearing on the Olympic hopes of Ireland's Judy Reynolds.

A photograph has emerged of a Dutch judge purporting to show him giving instructions to Russia's Inessa Merkulova on Mister X four months before she scored a personal best in the Moscow contest.

Her compatriot, Marina Aframeeva, placed second on Vosk, which is also owned by Merkulova, again with a score that was well above what she had previously achieved.

FEI rules prohibit a judge who has taught a rider three times within nine months of a CDI competition from judging that pair.

Merkulova and Mister X top the Olympic rankings and are guaranteed to qualify for Rio de Janeiro, but the scores for Aframeeva and Vosk move them up the rankings, affecting a number of riders, including Reynolds.

The FEI dressage committee meets today and tomorrow in Jerez, Spain, with the Olympic qualifying period set to close on March 6.

At Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, Wexford show jumper Bertram Allen won a speed class on Wild Thing before picking up a single time fault in yesterday’s grand prix with the eight-year-old gelding Izzy By Picobello to place sixth.


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