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Cian O'Connor and Walk Tall II Win $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic

RELEASE: February 24, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Laura Cardon and Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Cian O'Connor and Walk Tall II (Sportfot)
Cian O'Connor and Walk Tall II (Sportfot)
Wellington, FL
- Week seven of the 2013 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival continued on Saturday afternoon with the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC. Richard Jeffery, of Bournemouth, England, is the course designer on the derby field for the week. On Saturday afternoon, Jeffery set the track for 31 entries in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Only three entries cleared the first round course to advance to the jump-off, and two cleared the short course. Ireland's Cian O'Connor and Darragh Kenny finished first and second.

Young American rider Blythe Marano was the first rider to jump-off aboard Riverview Farm, LLC's Urban and finished with eight faults in 48.83 seconds to place third. Darragh Kenny and Cavallo Farms, LLC's Twister jumped next and cleared the jump-off course in 45.22 seconds to finish second. Last to go, Cian O'Connor and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.'s Walk Tall II took the win with their time of 43.53 seconds.

Both of the top horse and rider combinations in Saturday's class came in strong with wins earlier in the week. Kenny and Twister won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class on Wednesday and O'Connor and Walk Tall II topped Friday's $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge. Saturday's course on the grass tested many of the competitors on the roster, but they both mastered the track.

A new horse for Olympian Cian O'Connor, Walk Tall II is an eleven-year-old Anglo European gelding by Kannan x Farhaan. Walk Tall previously showed with Irish rider Keith Doyle and won last year's Queen's Cup in Hickstead. O'Connor got the horse just before Christmas but did a lot of traveling before coming to Florida, so this was their first show together.

"He is a really talented horse," O'Connor stated after the class. "He has had good results before. He won a big class in Hickstead last year, so he likes the big open space and I think the field suited him well today."

"He has been ridden by the same rider since he was four, so I am a different rider and it takes time to adjust," O'Connor noted. "I just feel that we are getting to know each other a little bit better today after just a few classes. In our second week jumping he won a 1.40m yesterday and a 1.50m today, so I can't really ask for much better than that. If I can train him to listen to me and understand me and really get all of the gears, I think I can jump any course. He is so careful and so brave."

The rider described Walk Tall further, explaining the details that they are working out as they get to know each other. "He has a very big stride," O'Connor said. "Ideally, you'd want a horse to have a big stride and a short stride, but he has not learned the short bit yet, so that can present problems sometimes if you are not extremely on the ball yourself when riding. You have to adjust quite quickly when landing if the distance is quiet, but he is very willing and honest and he is super careful. He is by Kannan, which is French, out of an Irish mother. He has a lot of blood. When you warm up outside he is not that impressive, and then when you go into the ring he is really careful, so it is a good attribute. He saves energy for the class."

Last to go in the jump-off, O'Connor was warming up when the other two riders jumped, but he asked U.S. rider Kent Farrington to watch their rounds and report.

"It was a great advantage going last," O'Connor acknowledged. "I had asked Kent to keep an eye on proceedings for me. Sometimes it is quite hard to concentrate when you are warming up. I watched Darragh Kenny go out of the corner of my eye. I thought he was neat because he did an inside turn inside the water to the double of verticals. I said to Kent, 'I won't beat him because I don't want to take that turn yet', and Kent said that I could be quicker if I kept the rhythm up and went around, so it was great to have Kent there for that bit of advice."

O'Connor is done showing now for week seven and will be gearing up for week eight's CSIO competition and $75,000 FEI Furusiyya Nations Cup presented by G&C Farm. He hopes to help the Irish team to victory.

"We are happy with our week and we have a big week next week for the Nations Cup," O'Connor stated. "I hope to be jumping Splendor on the team and hopefully we have a good result there. The Nations Cup is important here. We have so many Irish riders based here in Wellington and they have great sponsors and supporters, so it would be really nice to give them all something to cheer about."

The Irish team will be named next week.

Week seven of the FTI WEF will conclude on Sunday with the highlight $50,000Hermès Jumper Derby featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC at 3 p.m. WCHR competition will conclude in the International Arena featuring the Peggy Cone Adult Amateur Hunter Classic. The Children's and Pony Hunter divisions will also complete their competition for the week. full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
5. TACKERAY    LAUREN HOUGH    NORDIC LIGHTS FARM, LLC: 3/82.897                   
6. LARGO    RAMIRO QUINTANA    MAVERICK VENTURES, LLC: 4/76.347                   
7. ULTIMO    HECTOR FLORENTINO    STRANSKY'S MISSION FARMS, LLC: 4/77.627                   
9. COLORADO        JONATHAN MCCREA    CANDY TRIBBLE: 5/80.197                   
10. CHIRON S        PAIGE JOHNSON    SALAMANDERFARM: 6/81.110                   
11. ZINNIA    ANDREW WELLES    ANDREW WELLES: 8/78.881