Ireland’s Paul O’Shea bested a 15-horse jump-off to win the $210,000 CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix of the Palm Beach Masters at the picturesque Deeridge Farms in Wellington, Florida. Despite losing his rein after the jump-off’s third fence, O’Shea rode the fastest of the three double clear rounds to earn the win on Tequestrian Farms’ Imerald Van ‘t Voorhof. The win marked the first five-star grand prix victory of O’Shea’s career.
“I lost my rein after fence three, and it took me awhile to get organized again, so I did not get the distance that I wanted,” said O’ Shea. “But Imerald tried even harder, and he stayed on track, so I have to give him credit there.”
The Alan Wade-designed course was a challenge for some of the 44 starters but still provided a crowd in the jump-off. Juan Manuel Gallego (COL) and Coulash van de Broy Z provided the first double clear in 39.36 seconds, leaving the door open for the determined dozen yet to jump.
“I just played my game, because I went at the beginning of the jump-off. I just tried to jump a solid, clear round with my horse, as he’s not the fastest horse. Then the faster riders started to have rails down, and I thought, well, maybe!” said Gallego. “It’s an honor to be here with all of these riders. I had a really good day today, and my horse jumped amazingly well. Today is one of the happiest days of my life!”
Eight rides later, O’Shea smashed Gallego’s time, taking over the lead with a time of 36.03 seconds, but he had to wait for some Olympic veterans to take the course.
“I just really rode it as hard as I could. The second-to-last fence had come down a lot, and I thought, ‘That’s the one to watch out for.’ I had it in my head to just really go, because it probably doesn’t help to think like that, so I thought, ‘I’m just going to go at it,’ and he jumped it great,” said O’Shea. “All I thought was, ‘Keep going; Margie (Engle) is behind me.’”
O’ Shea had to wait awhile. Rails continued to tumble until the final combination, U.S. Olympic veteran Margie Engle and Royce, entered the arena. They turned in a clean round and it was close, but the pair crossed the Longines timers a fraction of a second slower, finishing in 36.78 seconds, good for second place. For a moment, Engle thought she might have snagged victory away from the Irishman.
“I wasn’t sure,” said Engle. “I know that Paul is always fast, and my horse is not the quickest in the air. He spends a lot of time in the air, so when I finished, I didn’t know if I had caught him or not.
“I really want to thank and commend the Jacobs family for what they have done with this event,” Engle added. “They go out of their way to make this a fabulous experience for all of us. They do everything they can to make the conditions ideal; it rained so much recently, but the footing is as good as you find anywhere in the world. I think we all owe them a huge thank you for what they are doing for our sport.”
In the morning, less than one second separated the top three in the CSIO5* $20,000 Palm Beach Masters Speed Tour class, with Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) capturing the win. Riding Cirus du Ruisseau Z, Maher managed a marginally quicker path than Pablo Barrios (VEN) and Le Vio to win in 57.22 seconds. Barrios held the early lead in the field of 40 entries but eventually finished third in a time of 57.95. Final rider Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) nearly dethroned Maher with Cheindira, clocking in at 57.60 seconds for second place.
Competition continues Saturday with the $72,000 CSIO5* NetJets Classic and the CSIO-YR Nations Cup for Young Riders as well as Junior and Children’s team competitions. The event culminates on Sunday with the $230,000 CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America.
Further information on the Palm Beach Masters Series is available at http://www.palmbeachmasters.com