“This is for mom.” An emotional Cian O’Connor dedicated his leading showjumper of the year grand prix victory on Super Sox to his late mother on the final night of the Horse of the Year Show 2016.
Taking out a stride to the last in a thrilling jump-off, Irishman Cian secured the title by the narrowest of margins, just 0.04 sec separating him from John Whitaker and Ornellaia.
“I’m delighted, it’s one I’ve always wanted to win,” said Cian, who had reflected on his last visit to HOYS.
“I was going for a walk this morning and thought back to my last time her two years ago when I had to leave after the second day because I got the very sad news my mother had passed away. She was always the type of person who would do anything for you, and I just thought I’m going to win that grand prix tonight, and I if I do, I’ll dedicate it to my mom.”
Kelvin Bywater’s tough 12-fence track made horses and riders work hard, but an eventual eight found all the answers to access the jump-off.
The legendary John Whitaker lived up to his reputation and was the first to produce a jump-off clear in the third draw, coaxing the best out of Ornellaia to take the lead to rapturous applause from an adoring audience.
But Cian finished just ahead, finding a tighter line to the last oxer to take out a stride. He took the title by just 0.04 sec on Super Sox.
“He’s an extraordinary horse. I train his owner Lillie Keenan, and my job is also to manage her horses and keep them ticking over, but the last time I jumped Sox in the ring was Olympia last December,” said Cian, who also claimed the leading gents award.
John dropped to second with the For Pleasure mare Ornellaia.
“She did everything I asked, you’ve got be pleased with that,” said John, “And when you get a huge welcome, it lifts you and gives you confidence to fight for it.”
A mini break is now on the cards.
“I’m having a couple of weeks off before I go to the Global Champions tour final in Doha and Lyon’s world cup qualifier. It’ll be a couple of quiet weeks, then back on the road again,” said John.
Robert Bevis was a just over a second behind John for third on Courtney Z with France’s Robert Breul in fourth aboard Arsouille Du Seigneur.
Anna Power claimed fifth with a great double clear on the 10-year-old Blazer B and also picked up the leading lady rider award.
“It’s one of the best moments of my career, dreams do come true,” she said.
Shane Breen came home on four faults to take sixth on Tracy Priest’s Market Irminka.
Photos © Jumping Around & HOYS/Julian Portch