Upper Marlboro, Maryland, USA – October 26, 2023 – The 2023 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), presented by MARS Equestrian™ heated up on Thursday, October 26, at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, where daytime junior hunter competition gave way to the first evening session, featuring the opening international jumper classes during MARS Barn Night. It was newcomer Rene Dittmer (GER) who ruled the day, racing to the win in the $78,000 Welcome Stake CSI 5*-W.
FEI Level 4 Course Designer Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR), assisted by Nick Granat (USA), designed the challenging track for the 23 starters representing eight countries in the Welcome. Nine managed to jump fault-free to advance to the jump-off.
“I was very happy with my first round,” said Dittmer. “Corsica did everything how I wanted it. I was first thinking I should go inside to the last line, but the time wasn’t so short today, so it all worked out fine.”
Jad Dana (LBN) was the first to tackle the short course aboard Caro W, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Castelan II x Aragorn) owned by Peter Howard and Laure Sudreau, and set the time to beat in a speedy 31.42 seconds.
Just two horses later, Dittmer shaved almost two seconds off the time with Corsica X, stopping the clock in 29.58 seconds.
Four rides after that, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) gave it a shot with his sensational partner James Kann Cruz, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) owned by Gizmo Partners LLC, but couldn’t quite catch the time, finishing in 30.61 seconds.
In the end, it would be Dittmer leading the victory gallop. Sweetnam finished in second, and Dana claimed third.
“Corsica is a naturally fast horse and usually when I catch everything quite well, I have a good chance to be in the top three, and today it was enough for the win,” described Dittmer of his ride with the 10-year-old Holsteiner mare (Connor x Corofino II). “She really knows where the top rail is. She’s so smart. In a class like today, I was a little deep to the one vertical in the middle, but she’s so smart to get out of the way. To be honest, she can be a bit mareish in the stable, like a lady, but in the course she’s just on it.”
Dittmer has had the ride on Corsica for about a year and half and have developed a strong partnership, racking up numerous top finishes. Now, they are in the hunt for valuable qualifying points for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April, so they are aiming to make their WIHS debut a winning one. Clearly, they are on the right track.
“I’ve heard a lot about Washington before, so I was really excited to come here,” shared Dittmer. “That it went like this on the first day, it’s the best feeling ever. When you come down the ramp and there are so many spectators and they’re all clapping and cheering for you, you have goosebumps when you get in there. This is a super, super great show. I love to be here. It couldn’t be better.”
With Corsica’s owner Mark Miness in the crowd, it was a perfect night to celebrate a big win.
“For sure we’ll have a couple drinks tonight,” smiled Dittmer. “It’s so great to have his support.”
For his win, Dittmer was presented with the Ben O’Meara Memorial Challenge Trophy.
Final Results – $78,000 Welcome Stake CSI 5*-W
1) Rene Dittmer (GER) & Corsica – 0 / 0 – 29.58
2) Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & James Kann Cruz – 0 / 0 – 30.61
3) Jad Dana (LBN) & Caro W – 0 / 0 – 31.42
Source: Press Release from Jump Media for the Washington International Horse Show
Photos: © WIHS / Shawn McMillen Photography