Four Irish show jumpers made the top place in Saturday night's $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, USA.
Cian O’Connor was best of the quartet after he guided the Irish Sport Horse Kilkenny to a superb third place finish.
It was a first ever five-star Grand Prix outing for Kilkenny, a nine-year-old gelding by Cardento out of MHS Pembrook Lady who was bred in Co Kilkenny by Sinead Brennan.
Fourth of nine to return to the jump-off, O’Connor and Kilkenny flew around the shortened track, electing to leave a stride out down the final line and the risk paid off as they briefly moved into the lead with a clear in 39.09 seconds.
"He’s a super horse," said O’Connor. "I only got him last September when he was eight years old. It was really a night of firsts for me: first time under the lights, first time [in a] five star, first time jumping water in the big competition, so I didn’t really know what to expect.
"When I walked the course, I thought it was a very difficult test. The verticals were very tall. I must say the course was nice. This time of year, we’re all just getting up and running and the combinations were fair and Alan [Wade] did a super job with the course.
"I’m just thrilled with the horse. He was only half a second off my good friend [Abdel] here, so we’re really, really pleased. I couldn’t be happier."
Egypt’s Abdel Saïd was next to go after O’Connor and produced what proved to be the winning round with Bandit Savoie, crossing the line clear in 38.70.
They would finish just one-hundredth of a second ahead of German runner-up Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM.
Cork’s Shane Sweetnam finished fifth with Karlin Van’t Vennehof with a clear in 39.83, while Kerry’s Capt Brian Cournane was seventh aboard Armik.
Wexford’s Bertram Allen made it four Irish riders in the top 10 when he came home ninth with the Irish Sport Horse Pacino Amiro.