Kilkenny-born Richie Moloney and the Irish Sport Horse Slieveanorra,on Sunday night, took a spectacular second place in the 500,000 dollar Grand Prix at Wellington in Florida, the climax of the US 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival.
Pipped to the winner’s prize of 120,000 euro by Britain’s World Number One Scott Brash by just over a second in the seven horse jump-off, the Irish rider nevertheless collected 73,000 euro for his runner-up place.
Tension surrounded the FTI-sponsored five-star Grand Prix over the weekend, with torrential rain and thunderstorms forcing the Palm Beach Equestrian Centre to cancel the competition on Saturday night, with competitors then having to re-prepare their horses for a rescheduled Sunday contest.
However, 38 of the world’s top riders turned out in Sunday’s bright sunshine for a share of the rich half million dollar prize purse, but a punishing first round course left just seven with zero scores and a ticket for the jump-off finale to the winter festival, with Moloney the only Irish qualifier.
Though briefly holding the lead with a brilliant round that produced a zero score and a time of 43.64 seconds, 32 year-old Moloney saw Brash, Britain’s Olympic team Gold Medallist, shave 1.2 seconds off his time with the bay gelding Hello Sanctos, to claim victory.
The Irish Sport Horse gelding Slieveanorra was bred in Co. Monaghan by Ronnie Hollinger.