David O’Brien Hails a Hat Trick in $140,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix

April 14. 2024

Ireland’s David O’Brien secured an impressive third victory for the week in the $140,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village on Sunday afternoon. The culmination of three-star competition highlighted the conclusion of the second week of the 2024 ESP Spring Series, presented by Florida Coast Equipment. The Spring Series at Wellington International runs for five weeks as part of the ESP Annual Series and finishes on May 12. 

From last draw, O’Brien continued his streak and secured the win aboard 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding El Balou OLD (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x Balou du Rouet), owned by Chansonette and Leap Year Farms. The pair was a force returning last in a 16-horse jump-off and coming off the momentum of a win in Friday’s qualifier. 

David O’Brien & El Balou OLD, winners of the $140,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

O’Brien, originally from Galway but now based in the U.S. with his wife Sarah, posted a jump-off time of 37.17 seconds over Ana Catalina “Catsy” Cruz’s (MEX) course. From an original field of 45 horses, 10 finished double clear with Luis Fernando Larrazabal (VEN) riding Belle de Muze to second. The mount Larrazabal owns together with Driss Ngadi was bumped from the lead with a time of 37.68 seconds. Hannah Selleck (USA) and Cloud 39, owned by her own Descanso Farm, rounded out the podium in 38.53. seconds.

“Weeks like this are very rare to come by,” said O’Brien, 35. “We tried very hard to not overuse the horses this winter and you can see that they're now coming into themselves. Hopefully that carries throughout the summer now.”

While O’Brien was strategic about his schedule over the winter, it didn’t keep him from winning. Sunday marked his sixth international podium during the 2024 in Wellington, including leading the Irish team to victory in the CSIO4* Nations Cup, presented by Florida Coast Equipment, during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF).

“I’m still wondering if that even happened,” said O’Brien of his hit trick win on Sunday. “To get a week like this really shows how good the horses are and how good the team is. I’m lucky to have the team at Leap Year Farm and Postage Stamp Farm behind my every step of the way. I’m also really lucky to have Blaou.

“He is the horse that you get on when you’re having a bad day and it all changes,” continued O’Brien. “He's a workaholic so we never overdo it, even in the warmup. Keeping him happy and not too excited is the big thing because when he gets overexcited he tries too hard.”

David O’Brien & El Balou OLD with Sarah O'Brien are presented as winners of the $140,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix by Richard Schechter. Photo © Sportfot

Returning last in the jump-off, O’Brien noted, “All I wanted to do was get a good start. I got the nine to the second [fence] and after that I had him rolling. I did eight again after that when most did nine and felt like I could have left out again after the double, but I didn’t want to risk too much.”

O’Brien crossed the final timers by risking just enough to take the win by five tenths of a second. 

This year marks O’Brien’s third season in Wellington with his own Leap Year Farm after establishing a talent for developing young horses at Hyperion Stud and Spy Coast Farm. He has been based in the United States for 13 years after getting his start at Galway Equestrian Center, which his parents own in Ireland. 

O’Brien credits El Balou OLD with getting his career at the international level started, saying, 

“Because of him, I know I can compete against the big guys, I just need to go out and do it.” 

Closing out the day on the field, Brazil’s Joao Eduardo Ferreira de Carvalho won the $35,000 Horseware Ireland Spring Grand Prix aboard Jikke-Cara, owned by Allison Firestone. 

Joao Eduardo Ferreira de Carvalho & Jikke-Cara, winners of the $35,000 Horseware Ireland Spring Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

To view full results from Sunday at ESP Spring II, please click HERE

Amateur-Owner Hunters Shine in International Arena

Amateur-owner hunter divisions, all presented by VitaFlex, were showcased in the International Arena at Wellington International to close out the second week of the 2024 ESP Spring Series, presented by Florida Coast Equipment, on Sunday.

Consistent performances for Caroline Tinsley of Sudbury, MA, and Tribute secured them the 3’6” 18-35 championship. Tribute, a 12-year-old gelding by Chico’s Boy, posted the highest score of an 85 over fences that was coupled with three second-place ribbons and a third in the under saddle. The reserve championship went to Reilly Cookingham of Red Hook, NY, and Whatatime, owned by Mary Lannan-Cookingham, after two wins over fences. 

Caroline Tinsley & Tribute, champions of the VitaFlex 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division. Photo © Sportfot

In the 3’6” 36 & Over division, Canada’s Tara Dow-Rein of Raleigh, NC, took the top tri-color riding Epic Style, owned by the Rein Family. Epic Style, a 12-year-old son of Cloney, won the under saddle and picked up two blues over fences with a high score of 88 to clinch the title. Laura Sexton of Greenwich, CT, rode Quando VA to the reserve championship after a win in the handy.

Tara Dow-Rein & Epic Style, champions of the VitaFlex 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter 36 & Over division. Photo © Sportfot

At the 3’3” height, Lauren Little of Lafayette, CA, scored the 18-35 championship riding Ceremony with a near-perfect performance over fences and a high score of 88. Allyson Hall was the one to beat in the 36 & Over section aboard Customized. They took the top tri-color with two wins over fences and a high score of 87.

To view full champion results from ESP Spring II, please click HERE