Darragh Kenny has options.

Between his Olympic mount VDL Cartello, veterans Chic Chic and Amsterdam 27, and 10-year-old Hamrah van het Exelhof Z, the Irish Olympian isn’t exactly short on 1.60m horses. But it’s the untested 11-year-old stallion Irwin, he has his World Cup Final hopes set on this year.

Kenny picked up the ride on the Kannan-sired bay (x Paladin des IFS) just over six months ago.

“We found him in Denmark. He was with [Danish showjumper] Emil Hallundbaek. I always liked the horse, actually. I saw the horse when he was seven, and I loved him,” said the world. no. 17.

In July 2023, Eva Castagren purchased Irwin for Kenny to ride. A month later, they won their first Grand Prix.

“He’s been incredible,” said Kenny. “The first Grand Prix I did with him was two star Grand Prix at Angelstone [in Ontario]. He won that. He was second in a big class at Spruce Meadows [in Calgary]. He placed in the World Cup in Washington [D.C.]. And he won the National Grand Prix here [in Wellington] pre circuit.”

On Thursday, the pair added the CSI3* Adequan WEF Challenge Cup to their resume, topping a 71-horse field to win the first international Grand Prix qualifier of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season.

“The horse just keeps getting better and better. When I bought him, he had never really done more than 1.50m, one or two 1.55m [classes] and he still was very green. But he just feels like an incredible horse. He’s scopey. He’s careful. He’s brave. He’s super rideable. I’m just very lucky to have him,” continued Kenny.

Their Jumpr App stats support that contention. Under Kenny’s saddle, Irwin’s clear round average has jumped from 10% to 50% at 1.50m and his career earnings from €19,017 to €93,373.

If the trend continues, he has the FEI World Cup Final in Riyadh this April in his sights.

“He will jump the Grand Prix on Saturday night, and then probably we’ll put him away until the first five star week. He’ll jump two of the five stars [at WEF]. And if he feels like he’s ready, then maybe I’ll take him to World Cup Finals.”