Cork’s Austin O’Connor and the Irish-bred gelding Colorado Blue, who is owned by the Salty Syndicate, finished best of the Irish riders in 13th place following a brilliant performance in Monday’s (1 August) individual final of the Eventing competition at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
O’Connor and Colorado Blue travelled to Tokyo as the Reserve/P Alternate combination. However they were called upon in the 11th hour after Cathal Daniels withdrew his mare Rioghan Rua “for veterinary reasons”.
A statement on Austin O’Connor’s Facebook read: “Being reserve is that awkward position where to get a run yourself, something has to go wrong for a fellow team member. Our commiserations go to Cathal, his owners and his team. We only hope that Austin and Salty can do their country proud. Riding at the Olympics is the ultimate honour and we couldn’t be prouder.”
O’Connor and Colorado Blue, who is by Jaguar Mail out of Rock Me Baby (Rock Kind) were in 49th place following Friday’s opening dressage phase, however they jumped up to 20th place after a stunning cross country performance on Saturday where they were clear inside the time.
After the cross country, a delighted O’Connor said: “I am delighted with my horse’s performance, he was great. He seems to have recovered really well. He is a class horse. We will all enjoy the next phase now. We will get the horse recovered and myself recovered and hopefully come out and finish on a good note.”
Four faults in the first show jumping phase on Monday meant they moved up a further two places to 18th, leaving them among the top 25 riders who qualified for the individual final.
O’Connor posted the first round inside the time allowed with one fence down, which left him in 13th place at the finish on a final score of 46.0.
Speaking afterwards, O’Connor said: “I feel amazing. He is a phenomenal horse, this is his first championships. I was drawn in at the very last minute so I was hanging on in there for the last five or six weeks which is a seriously difficult circumstance to be in. The bottom line is we both showed our professionalism and I hope I did everyone at home proud.”
Carlow’s Sam Watson and the Vahe Bogossian-owned Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) finished in 30th place overall on a score of 55.30 after picking up eight penalties in the final jumping phase.
Watson was frustrated after the cross country phase where he picked up an unlucky 11 faults after knocking a frangible pin and two time penalties.
“It’s a really tough one to take because he was brilliant. The reason he had the 11 penalties was that I let him fall in on that line a little.
“He ballooned in over the oxer and he got there a fraction close. I should have made more room for him and kept out,” he said afterwards.
Tullabeg Flamenco is by Tullabeg Fusion and out of Tullabeg Heidi (unk) (Ardenteggle Sir (IPSA)). The 12-year-old was bred by Co Wexford’s Nicholas Cousins.
Meath’s Sarah Ennis and the Breda Kennedy-owned Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) finished in 36th place on 79.70 with just one fence down in their final show jumping round.
The combination had a tough time on the cross country course, finishing with 20 penalties for a run out and 17.6 for time.
“I felt as we came to the drop and down to the skinny, where he ran out, he got really hard on my right rein and he ran down that hill. For love nor money I couldn’t turn him,” Ennis said afterwards.
“It is really unfortunate. I was very lucky to get him home. He felt very empty and heavy. I say he will bounce back, he is a tough one and will come back fighting tomorrow. He is fairly hardy but the humidity got to him.”
Sarah’s mount is by Garrison Royal (ISH) out of Davitt Star (ISH) (Furisto (HANN)) and was bred by Patrick J Kearns from Co Laois.
The Irish team finished in eighth place overall on a final score of 177.0.