As week nine of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) rolls on, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Sligo Balou Boy, owned by Michael Kearins, jumped into the winner’s circle in the $73,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 CSI5* on Thursday, March 11, in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
WEF 9 features CSI5* competition, along with a concurrent CSI2*, in the International Arena at PBIEC until March 14 sponsored by Fidelity Investments®. Friday’s schedule is highlighted by the $37,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.45m Classic CSI5*. Saturday features the $50,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSI2* and the $401,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5* as part of “Saturday Night Lights,” with a special opening ceremonies which includes the induction ceremony for Olympic gold and silver medalist Leslie Howard and Olympic judge and long-time FEI Steward General David Distler into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. The week concludes with the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI5* on Sunday. Feature classes are available free live and on-demand on the livestream.
Acting as a qualifier for the $401,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5* on Saturday night, 53 entries were challenged over a course designed by Alan Wade (IRL). Kenny, ranked ninth in the world, was 47th to go in the starting order, piloting the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Balou Du Rouet x Catiana to a clear effort in the opening round.
A total of 14 entries cleared the course with 10 electing to return for the second round. Kenny was last to return and put forth the fastest jump-off time, with a double-clear effort in 33.75 seconds.
“I just knew that I had to go fast and try to leave the jumps up,” said Kenny of his plan going into the jump-off. “I think the ‘nothing to lose’ part is nice when you go last in the order. You just go in thinking that if you want to try to win, you just have to leave it all out there and if it comes off, it comes off, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
It was quite a day for the Irish contingent in the International Arena as the country that took second place in the WEF 8 CSIO4* Nations Cup, presented by Premier Equestrian continued to showcase their depth of talent in the Thursday afternoon class. Michael Duffy (IRL) and Jeff Ten Halven, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Toulon x Cassis Z owned by HMF Equestrian, finished the day double clear in 34.90 seconds.
Rounding out the podium was Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Skara Glen’s Chancelloress, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Chacco Blue x Balou du Rouet owned by Skara Glen Stables. They finished in third, stopping the clock at 35.40 seconds.
The Irish didn’t stop there as Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Cian O’Connor (IRL) rounded out the top five finishers. Sweetnam landed in fourth with a time of 35.87 seconds aboard the 12-year-old Rheinländer gelding Alejandro (Acorado’s Ass x Contanga), owned by Seabrook, SpyCoast Farm and Sweet Oak Farm. First to go in the jump-off, O’Connor piloted Kilkenny, a nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding (Cardento x Mhs Pembrook Lady) owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd, to a fifth-place finish in 36.24 seconds.
Kenny, the top ranked Irishman in the world at number nine, produced his winning round on a horse he does not know well. He only acquired the talented gelding two weeks ago and continues to make adjustments as they move up.
“I rode him week seven and did two 1.40m classes and then this week, I jumped the ranking class Wednesday,” said Kenny. “It wasn’t even the plan to jump him today, and then the plan changed a little bit. I didn’t really know what he was going to do, but he’s an incredible horse. [He is] really, really careful and really scopey. He’s an amazing horse.”
Kenny has punched his ticket to jump in the week nine grand prix but remains undecided as to which horse he will take into the ring.
“I’m not sure right now,” said Kenny regarding whether or not he’ll give the new gelding a shot under the lights on Saturday night. “He didn’t start jumping until he was seven so he’s still green even though he’s 12. I don’t know if I’m going to jump him on Saturday night or not but every day, he’s gotten better, more comfortable, and more confident. I really like the horse.”
Full Results: $73,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 9
1. SLIGO BALOU BOY: 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Balou Du Rouet x Catiana
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Michael Kearins: 0/0/33.75
2. JEFF TEN HALVEN: 2009 BWP gelding by Toulon x Cassis Z
MICHAEL DUFFY (IRL), HMF Equestrian: 0/0/34.90
3. SKARA GLEN’S CHANCELLORESS: 2009 KWPN mare by Chacco Blue x Balou du Rouet
PAUL O’SHEA (IRL), Skara Glen Stables: 0/0/35.40
4. ALEJANDRO: 2009 Rheinländer gelding by Acorado’s Ass x Contanga
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Seabrook, SpyCoast Farm and Sweet Oak Farm: 0/0/35.87
5. KILKENNY: 2012 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Cardento x Mhs Pembrook Lady
CIAN O’CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/0/36.24