Irish five-star winner heads stateside for catch ride in $100,000 showcase

  • Five-star winner Austin O’Connor has jetted back across the Atlantic to take a catch ride in a $100,000 (£79,148) eventing grand prix.

    Austin, who delivered Ireland’s first top-level eventing victory in 50 years at Maryland 5 Star aboard Colorado Blue in October, is contesting the Conceal Grand Prix Eventing Showcase in South Carolina (1 to 2 March).

    Cybersecurity company Conceal is a new sponsor for 2024, and prize money has doubled for this year.

    Dressage and showjumping take place today (1 March), and competitors will tackle the Mark Phillips-designed arena cross-country track tomorrow.

    Austin has caught the ride on Carlson 119, a 14-year-old advanced horse usually ridden by Amanda Beale Clement and owned by the Get Ready Syndicate.

    “I’m lucky to be given the opportunity to ride a horse like him,” said Austin. “The main thing is not to irritate him, to make sure he’s happy, and that I don’t change his system. I’ve got to adapt to him, more than him adapt to me.

    “He seems happy and confident, so I’m not going to change things instantly. It’s a case of keeping him confident and feeling, ‘I quite like this new guy on my back!’”

    He said the venue at Bruce’s Field lends itself very well to the showcase, adding: “I can imagine it’s going to be a real crowd-pleaser. It’s almost a case of one seat sees all; I think it’s an excellent format and a great slight variation of the sport.”

    The cross-country track covers multiple arenas and comprises 29 efforts over 2,275m. Many of the fences are jumped in both directions.

    The quality startlist features big names and riders from the US, Australia and New Zealand. Boyd Martin and the superstar five-star and medal-winning campaigner Tsetserleg TSF took an early lead today and Boyd has several other high-profile rides to come.

    Liz Halliday-Sharp, who was based in Britain for many years, has three horses among the starters. Others exciting names include leading five-star performers Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, as well as New Zealand’s Monica Spencer with Artist.

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