Paris 2024: Austin O’Connor of Ireland triumphed at the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory, marking the first CCI5*-L victory for an Irish rider in nearly 60 years. Surging from fourth place at the beginning of the show jumping finale, O’Connor, alongside his trusted companion Colorado Blue, clinched the top spot with a flawless performance, concluding with a total score of 34.9.
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Securing the second position was William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, a five-time British Olympic veteran, riding Grafennacht and ending with a final score of 35.3. Meanwhile, Oliver Townend, the reigning World No. 1 from Great Britain, with Cooley Rosalent, settled for third place, accumulating a score of 37.1 after encountering some hurdles during their round.
Colorado Blue, a 2009 Great Britain Sport Horse owned by The Salty Syndicate, has been a reliable part of O’Connor’s repertoire. Having competed in multiple high-profile events such as the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships, the duo displayed exceptional skill and determination on the challenging cross-country track, showcasing their finesse and determination throughout the competition.
The highest-ranking American participant was Hannah Sue Hollberg, securing an admirable fourth place with a final score of 40.0. Describing his remarkable companion, O’Connor praised Colorado Blue, stating, He’s an exceptional horse, a true five-star event horse. He’s predominantly Thoroughbred, embodying elegance, strength, and an unwavering spirit, persisting until the very end.
Paris 2024: O’Connor’s Resilient Journey: From Burghley Setback to Maryland Triumph
After retiring during the cross-country event at Burghley, O’Connor changed his plans and headed to Maryland with his horse, Salty, determined to secure his first CCI5*-L victory. Tim Gardner, a member of the Maryland (5 Star) committee, encouraged O’Connor to compete in Maryland after a tough moment at Burghley, a decision that delighted O’Connor.
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Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Connor emerged victorious in the USEF Eventing CCI3*-L National Championship, leading from the beginning and maintaining their impressive first-phase score of 25.4. Pamukcu, who has claimed eleven international wins this year, the most of any rider globally, looks forward to representing the United States at the Pan American Games. She expresses her excitement for the promising future of HSH Connor and her other talented horses.
Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z secured the second position with a score of 28.6, with only .4 time penalties from the cross-country phase, and a clean performance in the final phase on Sunday. Local contender Savannah Fulton and Cash Point climbed to third place with a score of 31.4, following a robust cross-country performance and faultless rounds on Sunday.
The MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory, one of the limited 5 Star level equestrian events in the United States and the seventh globally, took place at the Fair Hill Special Event Zone in Cecil County, MD, from October 18-22. This event, renowned as the pinnacle of the Eventing sport, is often likened to an equestrian triathlon.
Equestrian Extravaganza: A Multifaceted Competition Paris 2024
In addition to the five-star competition (CCI5-L), the event included a three-star competition (CCI3-L) as the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship, and The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships presented by Debary of Ireland. The event spanned four days of rigorous competition, showcasing dressage (Thursday-Friday), cross-country (Saturday) designed by Ian Stark, and jumping (Sunday).
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Jeff Newman, the President & CEO of the Maryland 5 Star Committee, extended gratitude to the esteemed sponsors, particularly MARS Equestrian™ and Brown Advisory, for their continued support in making the Maryland 5 Star event a success once again. Newman expressed his appreciation for the excellent weather, vibrant crowds, and the challenging yet stunning course designed by Ian Stark, which provided a rigorous test for the world-class riders and their horses.
Acknowledgments were also extended to the FEI riders and officials who traveled from different corners of the globe to contribute to the success of the event, as well as the dedicated staff and volunteers whose relentless efforts were integral to its smooth execution. Newman also conveyed heartfelt thanks to the loyal fans whose unwavering support continues to inspire the event’s success year after year. Anticipation was high for the return of both the Fair Hill and Cecil County in 2024, with hopes of an even more exciting event.
For the convenience of the audience, the entire CCI5* was broadcasted via livestream on multiple platforms, including the USEF Network for domestic viewers, Horse & Country TV for international viewers outside of North America, and Maryland Public Television.
Saudi Arabia’s Show Jumping Investments Skyrocket Ahead of Paris 2024 Games
Saudi Arabia has been making significant investments in show jumping ahead of the Paris 2024 Games, paralleling its substantial spending in the realm of soccer. The rush in the equine transfer market, which has been described as frenzied by renowned British rider Harry Charles, is evidently linked to the looming deadline for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Charles, an aspiring medalist in the upcoming games and the top-ranked under-25 show jumper globally, anticipates a flurry of horse transfers before the cutoff date of December 31st.
Acknowledging the competitive dynamics at play, Charles noted the significant spending from entities such as the Saudi Arabian and Irish Cool more Showjumping teams. He admitted that while this aggressive approach could make it more challenging for other competitors, it also infuses more financial support into the sport. Despite the difficulties, he remained optimistic, emphasizing the possibility of discovering hidden talents amidst the intensified market activity.
One notable transaction involved the sale of the prominent British mare Equine America Space cake to the Saudi Equestrian Federation at the close of 2022, a move instrumental in securing the country’s qualification for the Paris 2024 Games. Previous rider Ellen Whitaker conceded that the mounting offers ultimately became too substantial to refuse, underscoring the immense financial stakes in the industry.
Saudi Arabia’s Growing Equestrian Ambitions: A Focus on France Olympic Success
Saudi Arabia, historically having claimed two show jumping Olympic medals, appears determined to further bolster its standing in the sport, with the costs for top-tier Olympic-level horses reportedly reaching multimillion-dollar figures. Charles is set to participate in the highly anticipated London International Horse Show, scheduled from December 13th to 18th at the Excel center. This event holds significant prominence in the annual calendar.
It’s a moment where you truly want to display your capabilities and demonstrate what you’re capable of. It’s an occasion to relish because the following year is all about serious competition, primarily focused on the Paris 2024 Olympics, he expressed. At this point, I believe I’m in excellent form, backed by some robust horsepower, Charles remarked, acknowledging Ben Maher, the reigning individual champion, and Scott Branch, the 2012 team gold medalist, as the top contenders.
I believe the sport as a whole could make more efforts to attract the younger generation, he emphasized. Enhancing accessibility is crucial, and it’s something I strongly support. As I mature, I aim to contribute towards achieving this goal.
He proposed a contemporary shift in the traditional attire, advocating for a more practical and comfortable dress code. I personally advocate ditching the ties. They feel outdated and can be quite uncomfortable, especially during scorching 35-degree heat, he noted. A more athletic and sporty jersey could be a more suitable alternative. It’s like almost wearing a suit and tie for a physically demanding sport.
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