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Equestrian: O'Connor sizzles as Irish stars clean up in Switzerland

Cian O'Connor's superb victory in yesterday's Grand Prix at Basel completed a spectacular start to the 2010 international show jumping season.

The Irish were on fire at the Swiss fixture where O'Connor (pictured below) scored a hat-trick and took the Leading Rider Award, Jessica Kuerten recorded a double and both Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey were consistently in the ribbons.

And to add fuel to the furnace of optimism for the new year, 21-year-old Offaly man Darragh Kenny won the World Cup Qualifier at Green Cove Springs in North Florida on Saturday night and now looks a contender for a place at the World Cup Final in Geneva next April.

Riding Rancorrado, O'Connor sealed 2009 with the first Irish victory for 22 years in the Olympia Grand Prix in London last month and put in another polished performance yesterday to scoop the €37,000 winner's prize.

Only four of the 47 starters found the key to the first-round track and Denis Lynch was one of these but he had to settle for fourth when Nabab's Son collected 20 faults second time out.

The remaining two had a single fence down and O'Connor clinched it when picking up just one time fault when last to go.

He set out his stall when second with Splendour on Thursday and then storming to victory with Irish Independent Echo Beach in both Friday's Speed class and yesterday's Two-Phase competition just hours before winning the Grand Prix.

He said "it's all about confidence, like a football team that wins one match and then goes on a roll. My Grand Prix win with Rancorrado at Olympia gave me that confidence, and made today's win possible. And Echo was brilliant too -- I've had her for seven years now and she always gives me her best" he added.

The first Irish win of 2010 was recorded by Kuerten and Castle Forbes Cosma on Thursday evening as they won through in a 19-horse second-round battle against the clock and this partnership also dominated the 15-strong jump-off in Saturday's speed event.

In Florida, Kenny and Obelix topped up the World Cup qualifying points earned with victory at Syracuse, New York last October with maximum points once again when pipping America's double-Olympic team gold medallist McLain Ward.

Irish Independent