Irish riders making their mark at Florida Winter Festival

Irish show jumpers are making their mark at the $9m, 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, with Richie Moloney third in Saturday’s grand prix and Darragh Kenny racing to victory in a speed class.

The first “Saturday Night Lights grand prix took place in chilly and blustery conditions, with Moloney and Carrabis Z among 12 to make the jump-off from a 45-strong starting line up.

The Kilkenny rider briefly held the lead, before being overtaken by Chile’s Samuel Parot on Atlantis. American Todd Minikus was last to go and, while he didn’t believe he could take victory, his mount Quality Girl seemed to have other ideas, as they galloped and twisted in a performance that saw them knock four seconds off Parot’s target.

“I watched Richie go and I thought: ‘That looks pretty impressive,’ and then Samuel went and I thought: ‘This looks too fast,’ but when I went to the first jump, she took a hold of the bit and dragged me on down there. It felt great,” said Minikus.

The win had added value for Minikus, who had a severe groin injury in September, which put him on the sidelines for months.

“I just sat around for months,” Minikus said. “Somehow I got myself back in shape and hopefully it will stay together for the rest of the circuit. We have a big summer coming up, and I have big plans.”

Moloney and a 13-year-old Zangersheide stallion Carrabis Z, owned by Equinimity LLC, scored some big wins last year, including the grand prix at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, while also producing the only double clear to claim the top prize in the $215,000 World Cup class in New York in September.

He was satisfied to finish third, with Carrabis only returning from a break.

“I was very happy. My horse had a break for almost three months so it’s nice that he came out like this. It’s the first week back jumping bigger, and he was great.”

Meanwhile, Offaly rider Darragh Kenny won a 1.40mtr class on the 10-year-old Belgian Warmbred-mare Glamour van de Kakebee, coming home almost two seconds faster than American star Laura Chapot on her 15-year-old Shooting Star, who were bidding for their second win of the festival. Yesterday, Cian O’Connor produced a double clear with Sam Du Challois to finish fourth in a $35,000 jump-off class.

In Schwerin, Germany, former army rider Shane Carey scored a win with Contenance.


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