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O'Neal Scores First Grand Prix Victory in $30,000 Hildebrand Fund Grand Prix

RELEASE: March 22, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lynn Walsh for Pin Oak Charity Horse Show

Capitano and Trapp O'Neal on their way to victory (Shawn McMillen Photography)
Capitano and Trapp O'Neal on their way to victory (Shawn McMillen Photography)
Katy, Texas.
- Saturday night's festivities at the 69th PIn Oak Charity Horse Show featured the $30,000 Hildebrand Fund Grand Prix and Gala. With hospitality the hallmark of the show, it was a enjoyable night for riders and spectators alike.
And especially so for Texas professional Trapp O'Neal.

The grand prix attracted a field of 18 competitors, who performed before a packed and appreciative audience at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center. The course, designed by Alan Wade, featured 13 elements and 16 efforts, and five horse-and-rider combinations managed to jump clear.

Faults were spread throughout the course, but the final line of 11AB, an oxer-to-vertcal in-and-out, four strides to fence 12, a liverpool oxer, on a bending line to the Brook Ledge vertical, caused heartbreak for many.

O’Neal certainly had his work cut out for him during the $30,000 Hildebrand Fund Grand Prix. He was sandwiched in between Wilhelm Genn, who had the first and last horses qualified for the five-horse jump-off.

Genn, this week’s winner of the $10,000 Welcome Stake as well as the $25,000 Moet Hennessy Grand Prix, was looking for a three-peat. Genn made his intentions known with a fast clear round aboard his leadoff mount, Bugatti, in 39.54 seconds.

That lead held through Quattro and Daniel Bedoya as well as Twilight and Katie Cox. But when O’Neal walked in the ring aboard TKO Sporthorses’ Capitano, he knew what he had to do.

“Well, I wasn’t able to watch Wilhelm on his second-placed horse [Bugatti], but I left out strides of the first two [lines] and I made a really good rollback to the last in-and-out, and that’s probably where I won it.”

From the in-and-out, riders had a stretch of nine or 10 strides on a bending line to the Brook Ledge vertical, heading toward the in-gate, which proved problematic in the first round and the jump-off. O’Neal had confidence in his horse, though, and barely touched the reins.

“It was a long distance, and I knew I could get a nine there,” he said. “My horse has a quick stride so I went for it. It was win or lose at that point.”

O’Neal and Capitano stopped the clock in 39.02 seconds, with an especially loud roar from the crowd for a hometown rider. Genn couldn't catch O'Neal's leading score with his second ride, Welcome Cor, and settled for third, with a rail at the in-and-out.

“You know, Wilhelm’s a very effective rider and very fast and efficient, and him having a horse before and after me, I knew I had to be fast and clean,” said O’Neal. “I had a plan and stuck with it, and it paid off for me tonight.

“This was my first grand prix victory, and it’s a great feeling. “He’s a fantastic horse that Tony Font imported from Germany, and Tony’s a good friend of mine and I really like the horse, and I owe a lot of credit to him. I have a fantastic owner in Kathy Epperson who is very supportive of me and let me progress him at a good rate. So I’m very happy with him.”

O’Neal has had the bay Holsteiner (by Captin Paul) for four years, and this is their second grand prix season.

“We’ve had a lot of second place finishes, but this is our first win,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to have it happen here. I’ve always admired this horse show, and it’s fun to do it in front of an enthusiastic crowd. It was a competitive grand prix, so that was a great feeling for me. And look forward to doing it again next week!”