Irish riders claimed all of the top five places in last night's five-star $73,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida.
Offaly’s Darragh Kenny and the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse Sligo Balou Boy took victory after a 10-horse jump-off, with the world No 9 crossing the line clear in 33.75 seconds.
"I just knew that I had to go fast and try to leave the jumps up," said Kenny of his plan going into the jump-off.
"I think the 'nothing to lose’ part is nice when you go last in the order. You just go in thinking that if you want to try to win, you just have to leave it all out there and if it comes off, it comes off, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t."
It was quite a day for the Irish contingent as the country that took second place in last weekend’s Nations Cup for team manager Michael Blake, continued to showcase their depth of talent. Galway’s Michael Duffy and Jeff Ten Halven took runner-up spot in 34.90, while Limerick’s Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Chancelloress finished third in 35.40 seconds.
The Irish didn’t stop there as Cork’s Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro finished fourth (35.87), while Meath’s Cian O’Connor completed the Irish clean sweep when guiding The Irish Sport Horse Kilkenny to fifth spot with another clear in 36.24.Darragh Kenny produced his winning round on a horse he does not know well. He only acquired the talented gelding two weeks ago and continues to make adjustments as they move up.
"I rode him week seven and did two 1m40 classes and then this week, I jumped the ranking class Wednesday," said Kenny. "It wasn’t even the plan to jump him today, and then the plan changed a little bit. I didn’t really know what he was going to do, but he’s an incredible horse. [He is] really, really careful and really scopey. He’s an amazing horse."
Kenny has punched his ticket to jump in this weekend’s Grand Prix but remains undecided as to which horse he will take into the ring.
"I’m not sure right now," said Kenny regarding whether or not he’ll give the new gelding a shot under the lights on Saturday night. "He didn’t start jumping until he was seven so he’s still green even though he’s 12. I don’t know if I’m going to jump him on Saturday night or not but every day, he’s gotten better, more comfortable, and more confident. I really like the horse."