IT was a case of déjà vu for Irish Olympian Bertram Allen as he made history at the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, scoring back-to-back Grand Prix victories in the same two weeks he had also won at in 2021.

Allen was defending his title in the $406,000 five-star Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix with his Tokyo Olympic mount Pacino Amiro, Aiden McGrory’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Pacino who was bred in Co Donegal by Simon Scott out of the MC Amiro mare Carnone Dancing Queen.

Fresh from winning week six’s three-star Grand Prix with Harley vd Bisschop, he once again showed the big America crowd why he is among Ireland’s leading talents for many years when galloping to another high-level victory at the atmospheric venue.

Course designers Anthony D’Ambrosio and Andy Christiansen set a challenging track for the 40 combinations and from those, five maintained clean sheets, while 12 fell victim to just one rail down. First to return in the jump-off was Israel’s Daniel Bluman with Ladriano Z who had a fence down and had to settle for eventual fourth place.

Allen was the second rider into the arena with the big-striding Pacino Amiro. He wasted no time and crossed the beams with an all-important clear in a quick time of 44.14 seconds. With three riders to follow, he had to wait and see if he had done enough.

“It was a little hard to know how fast to go with only five in the jump-off,” said Allen afterwards. “It was a question of getting the line right between going mad and too fast and having a rail, so I tried to have as good of a round as I could without going mad. He’s got a great length of stride, and any time there was an option, I was able to take one less, and I suppose that’s what helped me today.”

Belgian rider Nicola Philippaerts was next and came close (45.68) aboard Katanga V/H Dingeshof, but the final oxer fell meaning he finished in fifth place. As the lone American in the jump-off field, Bliss Heers jumped to a podium finish after she and Antidote de Mars were clear in 45.17 seconds as the penultimate pair into the arena.

Paul O’Shea and Chancelloress jump to second place in the five-star $406,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix \ Sportfot

O’Shea runner-up

As Paul O’Shea entered the arena, a victory for Ireland was in bag, but could the Limerick native catch Allen? He was riding Trelawny Farm LLC’s Chancelloress and the pair has five-star form having won a Grand Prix at the end of 2021. O’Shea made a bid in the long run to the final oxer as the crowd roared, but they crossed the timers just off the pace in 44.49 seconds for second place.

Of the course, O’Shea commented: “When I walked the course, I thought it was tough, but the standard is so high here because there are so many top riders and horses. They did a great job; everything I walked made me think it was difficult, and it had a lot of options, so you had to make a plan. It was an advantage for me to go later because I could see a lot go and make a good plan.”

Of the 13-year-old mare by Chacco-Blue who was purchased for O’Shea to keep by Irishman Niall Carey and his wife Cara Raether last year, the rider added: “She’s very sensitive and very nervous of other horses. She’s afraid of everything, but when she goes in the ring, she’s like a lion.”

Allen overjoyed

On his third year of competing at WEF, Bertram Allen has quite the Grand Prix winning record built up. “I’ve been coming to WEF for the past three years. It’s great to win any class here, but especially a Grand Prix, and to win a five star is even more special,” he commented. “Last year it was great jumping here, but it was even better this year with a full house because you could really feel the atmosphere. Tonight was a tough Grand Prix, and we only saw a few clears so it was a great result.”

He added that ‘Buddy’ was “at his best tonight” and said the Tokyo experience was “brilliant for him”. “He’s a little bit quirky because he’s a big horse and has his own way of going, but he is a fantastic, genuine horse with lots of talent and brave as a lion.

“You’re not worried about what the course builder is building because you know he can jump everything, so I’m very confident in him, and it’s a nice feeling to have.”

Sweetnam placed

Shane Sweetnam took third place with Alejandro in the $75,000 five-star Adequan WEF Challenge at the venue. The pair was one of just six double clears, in a time of 38.25 seconds. David O’Brien also featured in the line-up, claiming fifth with El Balou Old when he stopped the clock with nothing to add in a time of 41.40.

The Irish results continued; Lorcan Gallagher took the runner-up place in Friday’s two-star 1.45m jump-off class. Riding Ariana he delivered a clear in 42.79. Gallagher was just over a second slower than Brazilian winner Fabio Leivas Da Costa and Ilex, who clocked 41.78.

On Sunday, Tom Wachman was best of the Irish in the $50,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic CSI2* Grand Prix, claiming sixth place with Urvoso Du Roch. A total of 42 lined out and from those, 12 booked their place against the clock where five delivered double clears.

Wachman was less than a second slower than the winner Maria Costa and Valention V Z, crossing the line in 38.41, but four faults would cost him dearly in the end. Jonathan Corrigan also booked his place in the second round with Super Chilled, but four faults in 38.79 proved only good enough for eighth place.

The Irish Sport Horse gelding Rincoola Milsean (Aldatus x Cruising) finished on the podium in third place under USA’s Charlotte Jacobs. The nine-year-old was bred by the late Harold McGahern. Jacobs, of North Star Farm, trains with Greg Broderick and bases herself at his Tipperary farm for the summer months.