The luck of the Irish was in full effect this weekend as Ireland’s Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu flew to the win in the $225,000 Kentucky Invitational CSI3* presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, part of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN.
Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu soared over the last fence to win the $225,000 Kentucky Invitational CSI3* presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Michelle Dunn Photo
Eugenio Garza of Mexico and Armani SI Z finished second and Rowan Willis of Australia and Blue Movie finished third. American Ali Wolff and Casall finished fourth.
The format for the Invitational was a first round, followed by the return of the top ten, in reverse order of score, so the fastest clean round in the first round gets to go last in the second round. Scores are cumulative over both rounds and ties are broken by time.
O’Shea was the last to go in the second round, following blazing fast performances by Willis and Garza. He needed to jump clean, and faster than Garza’s time of 42.42. The big bay Dutch Warmblood galloped steadily and left all the fences up, and when he took a long leap over the final fence he stopped the timers at 41.91 giving him the win.
“I tried to go as fast as I could and leave all the jumps up,” O’Shea said of his winning strategy. “I didn’t really (get to see the others) to be honest, so I tried to go as good as I could and ‘Machu’ was incredible. He couldn’t have jumped any better, he was just fantastic.”
Eugenio Garza and Armani SI Z were fast enough to take second place at the $225,000 Kentucky Invitational CSI3* presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Michelle Dunn Photo
Garza was circumspect about his runner-up status. “We tried, but you can never count out Paul. He’s a tremendous rider and he proved to be faster today,” Garza said. “I thought maybe I had left the door open at the double, I took a step extra that cost us there. But I couldn’t be happier with my horse, she jumped great.”
Willis was happy with the scrappy little mare, Blue Movie, even if they weren’t on top today. “I’m happy to jump clear and get on the board,” he said. “I knew there were fast riders behind me and I knew I was a little slow and had left the door ajar, but yeah, my mare was great jumping today. Could be worse!”
Rowan Willis of Australia and the scrappy mare Blue Movie finished third in the $225,000 Kentucky Invitational CSI3* presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Michelle Dunn Photo
For the win, O’Shea takes home $56,250 of the $225,000 purse.
A standing room only crowd of 10,162 whooped and cheered every rider, and the riders were appreciative of their enthusiasm.
“The crowd is just fantastic, and yes it’s unusual for us, we’re not that used to it,” O’Shea said. “It definitely raises your game and ‘Machu’ is very experienced so it helped us, he rose to the occasion. It was very nice how the crowd was so into it.”
“We were kind of saying this is how grand prix should be,” agreed Garza. “It was an incredible crowd. My horse benefited from the crowd and the cheering. It’s a little more attention and he jumps better. It’s a great crowd and event, thanks to EEI for putting it on. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
“It’s much more interesting for us to ride and the atmosphere makes everyone happy and we all enjoy it,” said Willis. “My mare jumped fantastic in front of that crowd. It’s great for the sport.”