An unbelievable weekend for Irish Equestrian sport has finished with an Irish one-two by Shane Sweetnam and Conor Swail in the four-star Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, while Denis Lynch collected a new car with a runner-up finish in the Dortmund Grand Prix in Germany.
Sweetnam came out on top with his Nations Cup winning mount Chaqui Z in the $216,000 Lugano Diamonds sponsored contest, collecting over $70,000, while he was also received the Niall Grimes perpetual trophy as Leading Rider of the show after winning Thursday’s $35,000 WEF Challenge Cup and being part of the victorious Irish Nations Cup team on Friday. A massive 17 combinations managed to jump clear in the opening round of the Grand Prix to ensure a hugely competitive jump-off that included three Irish riders. Cork-born Sweetnam was first of the Irish trio to go midway through the clock round and he posted a scorching fast clear in a time of 41.79 to take the lead with the 11-year-old stallion Chaqui Z (Chacco-Blue x Quinar Z).
Cian O’Connor had also jumped clear in the opening round with Seringat, but one fence down second time out saw them slip outside the top 10. Co Down’s Conor Swail came closest to catching his fellow countryman when second-last to go with another stallion, Rubens LS La Silla (Rebozo LS La Silla x Cash). They crossed the line clear and just three hundredths of a second behind Sweetnam to take second place on the podium, while USA’s Ali Wolff finished third aboard Casall. The Irish one-two in the Wellington Grand Prix came less than 24 hours after three Irish riders finished in the top five of the $100,000 Suncast Classic at the same venue. Offaly’s Darragh Kenny took runner-up spot with the 10-year-old gelding Bolero, just ahead of Tipperary’s Kevin Babington in third place with The Irish Sport Horse Mark Q. Shane Sweetnam finished fifth with Main Road. The winners prize went to America’s Lucy Deslauriers riding Hester. On Friday, the Irish team of Shane Sweetnam, Paul O’Shea, Conor Swail and Cian O’Connor, led by Team Manager Michael Blake, won the Wellington Nations Cup for the second year in-a-row.
Meanwhile at Dortmund in Germany on Sunday afternoon, Tipperary’s Denis Lynch (pictured left), scored a runner-up finish in the four-star Grand Prix riding the 10-year-old stallion Van Helsing. Lynch produced one of just two double clear rounds, posting a jump-off time of 40.07. Victory went to eighteen-year-old Dutch sensation Sanne Thijssen riding Con Quidam Rb after they posted an impressive time of 36.58, while Germany’s Christian Kukuk took third spot on the podium with Colestus. All of the top five finishers, including Lynch, drove away with new Mitsubishi cars for their efforts. At the Spanish Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Alexander Butler and The Irish Sport Horse Hallowberry Cruz came out on top in the 1m45 jump-off class. Ireland’s winning run of results began last Thursday when Wexford’s Bertram Allen claimed the five-star speed class at Al Shaqab in Qatar with Molly Malone.