O'Connor among medals at Olympia
Published 21/12/2012 | 17:39
Olympic bronze medallist Cian O'Connor won his second major class of the week at the London International Horse Show on Friday.
Irishman O'Connor and the 13-year-old Splendor followed up Wednesday night's Christmas Pudding Stakes victory by taking the Santa Stakes in impressive fashion. They were more than a second clear of runner-up Penelope Leprevost after seven horses from a 27-strong field made the jump-off.
French challenger Leprevost and Nice Stephanie edged Portugal's Luciana Diniz (Fit for Fun) into third, with leading British contender Michael Whitaker (fourth) and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton (Heracross) fifth.
O'Connor's latest win took him into eighth place in the race to become Olympia's leading rider of the show this year with just over three days' competition left. The 33-year-old increased his week's winnings by another £5,000, and he said: "It's always great to win any class, but hearing your national anthem in London is very special."
Cheshire teenager Emily Ward produced a stunning performance to win the Team Murka and World Class Programme Under-23 British Championship.
At just 13 years of age, Ward became the event's youngest winner as she showcased her outstanding potential, taking a class that numbers 2012 Olympic team gold medallist Scott Brash among its former champions. Among the riders left trailing in her wake were established performers like Joe Clayton, William Whitaker, Dan Neilson and Chloe Aston.
Ward, riding the Michael Whitaker-owned Witch, landed a £5,100 top prize with her jump-off time of 38.69 seconds. Abbie Squires (Vilka B) was second, Clayton (Mr Darcy) third, Sally Hopkinson (Theunis) fourth and Jessica Mendoza (Classic Highfly) fifth.
British star Ben Maher continued his rich vein of form by capturing the Kingsland Christmas Tree Stakes.
Maher won his third competition of the week and extended his advantage in the leading rider race by guiding Milena home in the one-round speed class. The combination clocked 48.56 seconds, winning by a comfortable margin from Germany's Marcus Ehning and Campbel, who recorded a time of 49.99.
The consistent O'Connor finished third with Ishd Dual Star, with John Whitaker (Argento) fourth and Peter Charles - one of Maher's Great Britain gold medal-winning colleagues at London 2012 - fifth aboard Murka's Nevada.