Paul O’Shea and Imerald Van’t Voorhof Top $215,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix

Paul O’Shea and Imerald Van’t Voorhof Top $215,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix

The Irish flag flew for Paul O’Shea and Imerald van’t Voorhof (breeder: Frans Voeten) after they won the $215,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix on the grass derby field at Equestrain Village Saturday afternoon during Week 4 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). WEF hosts 12 weeks of FEI competition at Wellington International and runs through March 31.

Perfect conditions, but a testing track from Anderson Lima (BRA), welcomed only three riders to the tie-breaking jump-off. It took sixteen to try and come up short before David O’Brien (IRL) cracked the code on Lima’s first-round course. Three trips later, O’Shea guaranteed a battle between countrymen before up-and-coming U.S. rider Mimi Gochman joined the trio.

“I was lucky to be able to see David [O’Brien] go, and in the first line he did eight but I could see there was a seven there,” said O’Shea. “When David had one down, it made sense to go quite fast because even if I had one down but was quicker than him I could still be second, and also put pressure on Mimi [Gochman]. It worked out for us.”

Of the challenge course, O’Shea noted, “It was a long way around, and on the last line up the hill, maybe some of the horses were a bit tired by then.”

Returning for the jump-off, O’Brien and El Balou OLD, a 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x Balou du Rouet) owned by Chansonette and Leap Year Farms, pulled a rail to finish third. Nineteen-year-old Gochman ended on a double-clear day aboard 14-year-old Holsteiner mare Celina BH (Canstakko x Carthago Z), but coludn’t catch O’Shea to finish second for owner Gochman Sport Horses.

O’Shea bested Gochman with just over a second to spare in 39.63 seconds thanks to the ground-covering pace of Imerald van’t Voorhof, a 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Emerald x Bacardi Orange de Muze) owned together with Emerald Partners and Equestrian Farms.

“He’s been a super horse for me; he’s done amazing things over the five years we’ve been together,” said O’Shea. “We jumped double clear in the Nations Cup at Hickstead which was a big thing for me because I always watched Hickstead growing up. He also won the Queen’s Cup in Spruce Meadows and he won the 5* Grand Prix at the Palm Beach Masters so he’s done a lot of really good things and he feels as good as ever.”

The fastest four-fault round over the opening track came from Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam aboard 10-year-old Argentinian-bred mare RR Combella (Cornet du Lys x Indoctro) owned by Voquest. Combining a fourth-place ribbon with a top-five finish in the WEF Challenge Cup qualifier on Thursday, Sweetnam was awarded the Martha Jolicoeur Leading International Rider Award, presented together with Michael and Wendy Smith.

Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) capped the top five riding Cornwall BH, a 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Tessi x Cambridge 8) owned by Gochman Sport Horses.

O’Shea was presented as winner of the grand prix by Pamela Mars and Mark Ricks, representing MARS Equestrian, and was awarded with the Village of Wellington Cup by Mayor Anne Gerwig.