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David O’Connor, proved every inch an Olympic champion when first and third in the Rolex Kentucky three-day event on hisveteran rides Giltedge and Custom Made.
Although the competition appeared to be dominated by the new Kiwi double-act of Andrew Nicholson and Bryce Newman , O’Connor was always breathing down their necks and won the day with his usual near-flawless show jumping round before a delirious home crowd.
Andrew had been overnight leader throughout on Mallards Treat and was fifth after cross-country on Lord Killinghurst. He was chased all the way by Newman, enjoying a comeback at the age of 36, but they were among many for whom it all fell apart on Sunday.
Runner-up was Philip Dutton on Simply Red , one of his three rides following the relaxation of the two starters rule. His other two did not impress, but this 13-year-old most certainly did and jumped another of the elusive show jumping clears.
Best of the British was Ian Stark , who made stately progress on Arakai to finish fifth for Lady Vestey, and Rodney Powell , sixth on Flintstone for Marguerite Boucher.
Fourth was Bruce Davidson on Little Tricky,a chesnut, home-bred by Bruce and part-owned by long-time right-hand girl Debbie Furnas.
Once again, British show jumping designer Richard Jeffery set a tightly measured test, and aiming for seven or eight clears. In fact he got nine, most of which were reserved for the very last leg of a stomach churning afternoon.
The Honourable Bob kicked out four for Karen Dixon although theirangst cannot be compared with Newman’s after a 17-penalty round dropped him to 11th. Arakai and Flintstone managed to lower only one to stay in touch.
David O’Connor and Phillip Dutton then set the standard with strong rounds and, with Lord Killinghurst out of the picture after being withdrawn from the trot-up, there was extra pressure on Andrew to get a result.
Andrew’s failure to hear the start bell only added to the tension and when Mallards Treat went disunited itwas apparent that the first minor communication breakdown of this new partnership had come at the wrong moment.
With two down and time-faults, it was goodbye to $50,000 dollars for the Kiwi and a tickertape finale for the crowd’s favourite.
“Giltedge deserved it as he’s always been second to Custom Made; one of them has a lot of flair, the other is the workman who just keeps showing up,” said David afterwards. ” Now he has won a four-star and it puts his career in a new perspective.”
David who has not ruled out taking either of the horses to the World Equestrian Games next year.