ISRAEL’s Daniel Bluman experienced a pleasant case of déjà vu on Saturday night after winning the five-star $425,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix during week nine of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL.
He and his steady partner Ladriano Z won the same event in 2019 and lead the victory gallop once again during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ in front of a packed house at Wellington International, where Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam finish second on the podium with James Kann Cruz (ISH).
Alan Wade designed a difficult track for the 38 starters, with just four making it through to the jump-off. Bluman was last to punch a ticket after Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, Sweetnam and USA’s Karl Cook paved the way.
If Bluman felt the pressure as he returned for the short course, he didn’t show it while putting Ladriano Z’s massive stride to good use over the expansive track. “I watched Shane’s round and his horse and mine are both big and scopey, so I tried to do the same as him and edge him in a couple places,” said Bluman.
“He’s a really big horse so he’s naturally not the fastest one moving his feet, but you do cover a lot of ground, especially in a jump off like this where it had big galloping,” continued Bluman.
When Bluman pushed Ladriano Z through the timers, the clock showed they were six tenths of a second ahead in 43.24. Sweetnam and the promising James Kann Cruz, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) owned by Gizmo Partners, LLC settled for second and $85,000.
After finishing third in the Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix two weeks previous, Sweetnam mentioned looking forward to another quality track from his fellow countryman Alan Wade. “It was very difficult in a different way; not dimensionally but especially the last line for a bigger strided horse was very difficult. He made a point to put the last jump in the corner where it’s normally not, and the horses thought they were done. This was top sport with four great horses and riders in the second round, and no poles,” Sweetnam commented. James Kann Cruz was bred in Co Galway by Patrick Connolly.
Also jumping double-clear on a much slighter but lightning-fast horse, Cook finished third for the home country riding Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet. “This jump-off really rewarded how fast you could cover ground more so than turning,” said Cook. “There were three turns, so it was basically about ground coverage and on a horse like her she flies with a bit more turn, whereas these guys’ horses are just faster across the ground. So, the goal was just to cover the ground as fast as I could but after watching I knew I had to go fast. After fence two, I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it.
Rounding out the jump-off field without a rail down, Nassar took fourth aboard Igor van de Wittemoere (Cooper Van De Heffinck X Orlando), owned by Evergate Stables.
A day earlier, Sweetnam won the $39,000 Bainbridge CSI5* 1.45m aboard Sweet Oak Farm, Spy Coast Farm and Seabrook LLC’s 14-year-old gelding Alejandro.
Twenty-seven of the 61 entries jumped clear with Sweetnam clocking the winning time of 57.20 seconds to win $12,870. Second place went to Kristen Vanderveen (USA) aboard Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili (0/ 58.55) and third went to Tanner Korotkin and Quinn 33 (0/ 59.53).
“Alejandro jumped great; I was early in the class and in such a big class I was surprised I held out till the end, but I thought he was pretty quick. He was meant to show last week in a Grand Prix but he got a little sick, so he had a couple days off, but this week he’s been feeling great and I’m super happy with the result,” Sweetnam commented afterwards.
Bertram Allen won Thursday’s five-star WEF Challenge for the second time this circuit with the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Pacino Amiro (Pacino x NC Amiro). There were just three through to the jump-off in the tough class, designed by Alan Wade, and Allen was the fastest of two clears in the jump-off, beating Darragh Kenny and Chic Chic into second place.
“I’ve never seen a WEF Challenge here where only three were clear in the first round, so it was a much more tactical jump-off than normal,” stated Allen. “It was a huge advantage going after Darragh because I saw one or two places in his jump-off where I could get the better of him if I left the rails up.
“Pacino [Amiro] is an experienced horse now whereas he was only nine when he started jumping the five-stars here. He has developed and knows his job now, so we just keep him as fit and healthy as possible.”
Allen won Wednesday’s five-star 1.45m aboard Ballywalter Farm’s Edison de Hus when the best of 23 clear rounds. Jordan Coyle finished fourth with Centriko Volo ahead of Darragh Kenny in fifth place with Vancouver Dreams.