Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – July 15, 2023 – Conor O’Regan (IRL) had big hopes for Big Boy Z when he purchased the horse off a video in 2020. Three years later, the gelding won its first grand prix – in only its fourth grand prix appearance ever – as the sole clear round in the $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix during week two of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF). The win continues a top week for Ireland after Irish riders swept all three main events in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring so far.
Mauricio Garcia (PUR) set a tough track for Saturday’s class, and O’Regan was the only one to jump around without bringing down a rail, clinching the win without proceeding to a jump-off.
Big Boy Z, owned by Delshore Horses LLC, was behind in development when O’Regan acquired him as a 7-year-old, but his canter and technique spoke to him enough that he made the decision to purchase the horse. Now 10, the Zangersheide gelding (Big Star x Caridor Z) has all the pieces to become a top grand prix mount.
“[Big Boy Z] was brilliant,” O’Regan said. “It’s only his fourth grand prix and he’s placed in all four I’ve done. He was very green when I got him and it took a lot of time and patience to get him where he is. I got him and he had maybe 5-year-old mileage on him but he has a great mentality. He’s a really good horse. I think he’ll do a lot of good things.”
O’Regan didn’t find trouble with the first round track, but he knew what it was that made rails come down for the others. “The oxers were square and wide, and he asked a lot of questions off long approaches to jumps where I think the horses and riders had a lot of time – maybe too much time – to think instead of acting off instincts,” O’Regan shared. “The double verticals caught out a lot of people. It was set on a half stride off the triple bar towards the in-gate. I thought it was fair. Jumps fell everywhere on the course. It was just my day.”
When asked what appealed to him the most based on the video he saw in 2020, O’Regan said, “The canter. He’s by Big Star and he’s got that big-horse canter. Even though he’s called Big Boy, he’s quite small; he’s only about 16.1hh, maybe. He’s really good in front too; his technique is excellent.”
For Big Boy Z, he will jump another National Grand Prix in Traverse City before gearing up for CSI 2* action later this summer. “He could be doing the FEI classes easily now, but I have two really good horses so I’m trying to balance it all out and not push him too much,” O’Regan remarked. “It’s just about trying to manage the horses and make sure they’re all feeling good.”
The key to letting Big Boy Z develop into the horse he has become was patience. “I take my time with him,” O’Regan, who is based in Upperville, VA, shared. “I don’t jump him that much at home. I just make him rideable and try to get him to shorten his body. I take him out in the field a lot and mix it up.”
Second-place honors went to the fastest four-faulter, Tina Yates (USA) with Invaludine Z, while João Eduardo Ferreira de Carvalho (BRA) with And Action aboard, took third on another quick four-fault round.
Show jumping concludes for the second week of GLEF with Sunday’s $145,100 Grand Prix of Michigan CSI 3*.
Final Results – $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix
1) Conor O’Regan (IRL) & Big Boy Z – 0 – 79.073
2) Tina Yates (USA) & Ivaludine S – 4 – 77.223
3) João Eduardo Ferreira de Carvalho (BRA) & And Action – 4 – 77.517
Source: Press Release from Great Lakes Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography / Megan Giese Photography