IN what can only be described as a tremendous show of form, Offaly-born show jumper Darragh Kenny took the honours in the third round of the WEF Challenge Cup competition at the Palm Beach showgrounds in Wellington, Florida, last Thursday.
Riding Missy Clark’s 13-year-old Irish-bred gelding, ‘Gael Force’, Kenny was one of only eight combinations from the original 42 starters to make it through to Olaf Petersen’s jump-off course. Just four combinations delivered double clear rounds with Kenny recording the fastest time of 43.31 seconds to take the honours in this world class field.
The 23 year-old beat off a strong American challenge from Brianne Goutal to win the $9,000 first prize by leaving out a stride when navigating the last line of jumps.
Proving to be a strong partnership, Kenny and Gael Force clicked from the start, claiming their first Grand Prix in Saratoga just one week after going to work for Missy Clark and North Run. This same combination took the honours in the Hermes Lake Placid Grand Prix in New York State last July, picking up €18,000 for their efforts.
Afterwards Kenny commented, “The horse jumped great. He jumped both rounds fantastic and he has always been a great horse for me. It was a good track and I knew Brianne was really fast. I knew that there was really no way that I could catch her other than to do my crazy five strides down the last line. It worked out for me at the time, but it was lucky.”
Although Kenny is now based in the Vermont, he has contributed to the success of the Team Ireland Equestrian squad over the course of 2010. He demonstrated huge talent in the opening rounds of the Meydan FEI series, forming part of the Nation Cup’s team, La Baule, St Gallen, Rome and Lisbon.
Kenny boasts an impressive individual record sheet following a string of wins at the highest level with horses Obelix, Celano, Armani, Imprimis, Bazooka De Muze and Looping Star, both in America and Europe.
There is no doubt that Kenny’s strong performance at this year’s festival will not go un-noticed by Horse Sport Ireland Team Manager Robert Splaine, and will surely increase his chances of being called up for international duty with Team Ireland Equestrian squad in the up-coming months.
For now, Kenny will surely have his sights set on the $75,000 FEI Nations Cup CSIO****.
Ireland’s other competitor in the Challenge Cup, Shane Sweetnam, had an unfortunate two fences down in the jump-off with ‘Amaretto Darco’ and finished eighth overall.