Thermal, California, USA – December 02, 2022 – It was a good day to be Irish. Irishmen topped the podiums of each of the feature classes Friday of Desert Holiday I at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP), and took several of the second- and third-place finishes as well. Taking the top spot in the $72,200 Whittier Trust CSI 5* 1.50m was Ireland’s Darragh Kenny (IRL) with Volnay du Boisdeville, owned by Teddy Vlock.
Kenny was the quickest of 12 jump-off competitors who jumped clear over Michel Vaillancourt’s (CAN) first-round track. With a jump-off time of 35.50 seconds.
He outpaced second-place finisher Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160 (Christian 25 x Calando IV) , owned by Team Phillippaerts, who finished second in 36.83 seconds.
Bliss Heers (USA) with Antidote de Mars (Diamant de Semilly x Jarnac) claimed third place, also backed by two penalty-free performances, the decisive one in 38.63 seconds.
“My horse felt very good in the warm-up,” Kenny said of his mindset going into the jump-off, knowing the pace was quick and the competition behind him was steep. “He was jumping great. Conor was very quick as always and I wanted to try to be as quick as I possibly could without rushing him too much. Conor did one more to the last than me so I thought if I could take one less to the last that would be faster, and it worked out.”
“My horse felt very good in the warm-up,” Kenny said of his jump-off strategy, knowing the pace was quick and the competition behind him was steep. “He was jumping great. Conor was very quick as always and I wanted to try to be as quick as I possibly could without rushing him too much. Conor did one more to the last than me so I thought if I could take one less to the last that would be faster, and it worked out.”
The partnership between Kenny and Volnay Du Boisdeville has been fairly short, but extremely lucrative since he took the ride only about one year ago. “We actually bought him for Teddy to ride. He had great success with Teddy for three years; he jumped him on the Nations Cup team at [the Palm Beach Masters] and jumped a few five-star grand prixs with him. I took over towards the end of last year and he’s been amazing. He won a four-star Grand Prix in Wellington, second in the five-star Grand Prix in Monaco, and he’s been an incredible horse so I’m very lucky to have him.
“He’s such a cool horse; I enjoy riding him,” Kenny continued of the 13-year-old Selle Français stallion (Winningmood x Jalisco B). “He’s so fun. When you go in the ring you appreciate the horse. His ability is fantastic and you try to stay out of his way. For a stallion he’s so quiet, easy, and mannerly. He’s just a lovely horse.”
Kenny has been to Thermal, but it has been quite a while and the vast improvements made the park nearly unrecognizable to him.
“I came eight years ago to jump a World Cup [Qualifier] and it’s absolutely amazing the job they’ve done on the place,” he commented. “This grass ring is incredible, and the footing is just perfect. They’ve done an incredible job on the whole place. The stabling for FEI is great. It’s really enjoyable to be here. They have two CSI 4* events [in the winter] so we were debating trying to do one or both of those.”
Final Results – $72,200 Whittier Trust CSI 5*
1) Darragh Kenny (IRL) & Volnay du Boisdeville – 0 / 0 – 35.50
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Theo 160 – 0 / 0 – 36.83
3) Bliss Heers (USA) & Antidote de Mars – 0 / 0 – 38.63
Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas for Desert International Horse Park
Photos: © ESI Photography