Articles: Press Release
O'Connor Is No Fool On A Horse......Louise Parkes reports for
Kenneth Kraus of Phelps Media Group, Inc.
at (561) 753-3389 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hickstead, Great Britain - July 29, 2006 - There was near enough to an
Irish whitewash in the Sky Sports Speed Classic at Hickstead today when
Cian O'Connor, third-last to go, scorched to victory with Zanoubia ahead
of Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost while Irish duo Shane Breen and Cameron
Hanley slotted into third and fourth places.
O'Connor is the 26 year old who won and lost that now-infamous gold
medal in Athens and who has worked hard to maintain his profile in the
aftermath. He is vying for a place in the Irish team for the World
Equestrian Games with his Olympic ride, the 15 year old Waterford
Crystal, and today's result is a confidence-booster for him and for all
of the Irish squad who were disappointed when finishing fifth in
yesterday's Super League Nations Cup.
The Speed Classic was run over a derby-style track using the white
gates, a section of the big bank and the road-jump along with those
notorious Hickstead hedge oxers, and America's Chritstine McCrea enjoyed
a good run when clear with Rioletto. However it was Shane Breen and
Mullaghdrin Gold Rain, the Irish partnership that won Thursday's Ford
Ranger Grand Prix, who set the class alight when the fearless and
talented grey, definitely a prospect for the future, clipped only the
last to add four seconds to their time and set the target at 84.27
Hanley steered Charming Fox home a little more cautiously, stopping the
clock with a clear round in 84.38 seconds and these two led the field
until O'Connor and Zanoubia arrived into the ring looking like they
meant serious business. The Kildare-born rider had finished second in
the qualifying class in the outside ring two days earlier and it was
foot-to-the-floor from the very start this time out with Zanoubia
jumping big and clean all the way. It was like watching a motor-racing
driver negotiating a chicane as he weaved his way through the last three
fences, never taking a pull and finding the distances coming up just
right, and with the scoreboard showing a time of 79.50 seconds he had
the advantage with just two left to go.
Two fences down kept Candice King and Constantin out of contention but,
last into the ring, Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost and Kire Royal Star, who
had pipped O'Connor on Thursday, looked like they might just do it
again. "Bost is one of the fastest riders around" O'Connor said
afterwards, "so I thought I might be in trouble", but he could not match
the sheer fluidity of the Irishman's run and had to settle for second
when crossing the line in 81.53 seconds.
"Zanoubia is great" O'Connor pointed out. "I got her last September and
she won classes in Cavan, Paris and at Towerlands in England, and she
did well in Arezzo in Italy in the spring. She's only 15.3hh but she's
a blood mare and she's learned to lengthen her stride. Between fences
two and three was a normal nine strides that the bigger horses could do
in eight but she managed the eight and that got us started just right.
Her rhythm was fantastic from start to finish and this has been a good
school for Dublin - its always nice to win a class there. She's
naturally brave and super-careful but you can't keep galloping
her all the time so I'll drop her down to some small classes now" the
One of the big talking points at Hickstead this weekend is the huge
success of the BBC's recently televised charity fund-raising programme
"Only Fools on Horses" which featured 12 celebrities including
American-born comedian Ruby Wax, former British Olympic athlete Sally
Gunnell, and a variety of TV and radio personalities including
British-based gardening expert Diarmuid Gavin who won massive support
from the voting public with his particular Irish charm.
British show jumper Tim Stockdale acted as Head Trainer and the
competitors, the majority of whom were aged in their 40's and had little
or no riding experience, had only a few weeks of preparation before
taking part in nine days of televised show jumping at the Unex
Towerlands equestrian centre at Braintree in Essex - and it was a thrill
a minute. International show jumpers Jessica Kuerten and Robert Smith
and fashion model/polo player Jodie Kidd were the competition judges,
and these almost totally inexperienced riders were jumping fences up to
1.25m by the end of the series which saw the public
"hoofing off" one rider each night.
Ruby Wax fell in love with her horse Mr Kenneth who, however, gave her a
nasty black eye when they got into a bit of a muddle and there were
thrills and spills aplenty. The winner was GMTV television producer
Jenni Falconer and the knock-on effect of the series has been very
positive indeed with the public reaction taking everyone by surprise.
"The riders were really brave and the show was a huge undertaking
because there was a crew of over 300 people working on it" Robert Smith
commented at Hickstead today. "It was a great concept - imagine someone
who is only riding for five weeks jumping 1.25m at the end of it - they
were brilliant, and the programme is one of the best things that has
happened to show jumping in a long time. People could see that it
really can be a great spectator sport, the public got really involved,
and they were able to understand how it all works as well as realising
that anyone can take part in it if they put in the training".
One foolish radio show host commented live on the air during the series
that show jumping was "a bit of a doddle and not much of a challenge"
for the participants but he found out otherwise a few days later when
his boss insisted he should join the celebrity group for a training
session and ended up eating humble pie after taking a tumble during the
lunging lesson. "I take it all back - its not easy at all" he admitted
afterwards, "you guys are great!" and the show raised almost US$540,000
for charities around the world.
Tomorrow however there will be no "Fools on Horses" as riders battle it
out for the prestigious King George V and Queen Elizabeth 11 Cups which
bring the Royal International at Hickstead to a close.