Victory on the grass derby field in Saturday’s $205,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI 4* went to Daniel Bluman (ISR) riding his veteran partner Sancha LS.
The biggest jumper class of the week was held on the beautiful grass derby field, and 44 entries went to post in the first round over a course designed by Anderson Lima of Brazil. Nine were clear and advanced to the jump-off.
Sixth to go in the jump-off and setting a new leading time was Margie Engle (USA) on the 18-year-old KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Dutchman, Indigo. Looking half his age, they flew around course in a time of 44.30 seconds, which would hold up for third place.
Margie Engle (USA) & Indigo
“He [Indigo] is 18 but he doesn’t know it, he still thinks he’s still five or six years old,” said Engle. “I haven’t jumped him in a big class in a long time. Since he was 17 last year, he stayed home for the summer.
“He’s plenty fresh; I wasn’t actually planning on doing this — I was just going to see how it went,” she continued. “Since he’s 18 I was going to mainly do 1.45m and 1.50m classes, but he felt so good at home I thought I’d give it a try. I thought, ‘If he feels like doing it fine, and if not, then I’ll come out,’ but he’s done more than I could have asked for during his life. Even though he’s 18 he feels solid and sound and fresh, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Beezie Madden (USA) & Con Taggio
Immediately following in the jump-off was Beezie Madden (USA) on Con Taggio, a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Contagio x Golliath Life owned by Abigail Wexner. It was the horse’s first-ever grand prix, and he rose to the occasion. They recorded a new leading time of 43.48 seconds, and eventually finished second.
“He [Con Taggio] did some really good classes in Spruce Meadows over parcours de chasse-type courses and he’s done a few 1.45m and 1.50m classes, but this was for sure his biggest class and I’ve never gone that fast over fences this big,” said Madden. “But he has experience going fast, so I decided to have some fun in the jump-off and he was fantastic.”
Taking the lead as the next horse in the ring, Bluman and Sancha LS, a 15-year-old La Silla-bred mare by Chin Chin x Polydor, brought the winning time down to 43.39 seconds.
“I didn’t get to watch many people go but I was lucky that I was able to see Beezie, who is one of the fastest, and she was fast everywhere. Beezie was riding a nine-year-old so knew I could take a little bit of advantage and take some risks that maybe she couldn’t take. I was lucky and I edged her for nothing. I could have been sitting in that [second] spot and not so smiley, but luck was on my side and we won.”
Some of the risks that Bluman took was a big gallop to the combination – “I knew Sancha would back away from the oxer and it paid off” – but the start was a little more bumpy.
“From one to two I wanted to try to do one less stride to the vertical,” he explained. “I don’t know if I achieved it or not because I lost my concentration and nearly ended up in the standard at jump number one. But that was one of the risks I was planning to take; be fast and roll-back. I knew rolling back as fast as Beezie was going to be impossible; she’s one of the best roll-back riders in the world — she really did a masterpiece there — but I think I did one more stride and then I was able to gallop full energy to the combination.”
It was a nice victory for Sancha and Bluman, who have been partners for eight years.
He said of his 2012 London Olympic Games and 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games mount, “This is my eighth season with Sancha in Wellington so to be able to use this amazing field suits her very well. From last year I made the plan to start the week here; to jump the 1.40m hoping my other horse would qualify me for the grand prix and I’d jump it with her. There’s one more week like this at the end of the season so I think that’s one more that I plan to jump with her. It’s good that she gets some honors because she deserves it.”
Katherine Bellissimo; ringmaster Steve Rector; Kelly Macaulay, Vice President of Marketing, NetJets; Catherine Zazon, Lifestyle Marketing and Partnerships Manager, NetJets; Village of Wellington Councilwoman Tanya Siskind; Councilman Michael Drahos; Vice Mayor John T. McGovern; Mayor Anne Gerwig, Daniel Bluman (ISR) & Sancha LS
As another rider that recently switched nationalities to Israel – joining new fellow Israeli Alberto Michán – Bluman has the goal to compete at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon as an individual with his top mount, Ladriano Z. Israel hopes to have a strong show jumping team compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Hopefully we’ll get to have Margie as our Chef d’Equipe one day!” he said with a smile.
Both weeks of FEI competition hosted on the Derby Field at Equestrian Village (WEF 4 and WEF 11) will offer an additional $25,000 Rider Bonus presented by the McNerney Family to the top three riders accumulating the most points over the two weeks of competition. To be eligible for the Rider Bonus, riders must compete during both WEF 4 and WEF 11. Any form of tie will be determined following the $205,000 CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix CSI 4* on Saturday, March 24.
Source: Press Release by Jennifer Wood Media for ESP / WEF
Photos: © Sportfot