Equestranism: O'Connor lifts prize after Echo Beach proves a hit

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The Independent Online

Ireland's Cian O'Connor collected the plum prize of £4,000 on the first day of international jumping at the Horse of the Year Show, having completed a whirlwind clear round on Irish Independent Echo Beach who was competing in her first indoor show.

The mare seemed happy enough negotiating the twists and turns on the course, finishing 1.8 seconds ahead of Audi's Naomi and the impressive 19-year-old Dutchman, Maikel van der Vleuten. William Funnell, riding another mare, Cortaflex Amber du Montois, was third and best of the British.

Robert Whitaker kept the family name in the limelight despite the absence of his father and uncle, John and Michael, who have missed their home international in favour of a more lucrative fixture in Athens.

"It's a bit more peaceful without them," 24-year-old Robert said after winning the easibed Stakes in yesterday's opening international session. Whitaker's winning mount was Rudeski II, whose behaviour has greatly improved since he was gelded in January.

"You can take him to shows now," Whitaker said. "He used to be crazy; he'd kick the wagon to bits." The horse is also "ultra careful and really fast". His opponents in Sunday's Zinc Management Speed Horse of the Year can take note that 10-year-old Rudeski usually wins if he jumps a clear round.

Whitaker overtook a fast clear round from the Irishman Billy Twomey, who had galloped into the lead on Whinny Jackson, defeating the eventual third-placed Ryan Prater, who had been first to tackle this two-phase course of power and speed on Vahagn de Lozana.

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