Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 7, 2020 – Saturday evening at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center featured the third of four CSI5* weeks during the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) as riders chased FEI ranking points and the greatest share of the prize money. Boasting a significant pot, the $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* brought 40 skilled entries from 11 countries to the limelight, with the home turf riders from the United States posing the greatest threat with 14 contenders in the field. Though Israel was only represented by two partnerships, that proved to be enough as Ashlee Bond (ISR) jockeyed Donatello 141 to victory as the quickest jump-off pair, followed by Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z in second place to add more accolades to Team Israel’s growing list. Saturday evening was a milestone night for Bond, marking her first ever CSI5* grand prix victory.
The evening’s star-studded pack of challengers included 14 Olympic veterans, plus five of the world’s Top 10 ranked athletes: No. 2 Martin Fuchs (SUI), No. 7 Darragh Kenny (IRL), No. 8 Beezie Madden (USA), No. 9 McLain Ward (USA) and No. 10 Kent Farrington (USA). Regarded as one of the best course designers in the business, Alan Wade (IRL) crafted a 17-effort track that included an open water for the first round of competition, which proved aptly difficult for the occasion. Six combinations faced heartbreak as the first fence came down to keep them out of contention for a slot in the jump-off.
Seventh in the initial start list, Bond and Little Valley Farms’ Donatello 141 served as the first successful trailblazers, leaving all the rails in the cups within the 84-second time-allowed to give the crowd its first reason to cheer. Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fasther joined the clear ranks soon thereafter to force a jump-off, followed by Madden and Darry Lou more than 15 trips later. The first man to pilot a mount fault-free over the pattern, Bluman navigated Ladriano Z to a successful effort, the final partnership to do so, to join the list of short course qualifiers. David Blake (IRL) and Keoki also managed to leave the course fully intact, but fell victim to the time-allowed by mere milliseconds to incur a single fault.
Whittled down to eight obstacles, the shortened jump-off course only saw four entries to make for a quick second phase of competition. The first of two pairs hoisting the flag for Israel, Bond and Donatello 141 set a high bar as the first double-clear of the class in 39.64 seconds, slicing across the ring to create a challenge for subsequent counterparts. Keenan and Fasther turned in a valiant effort but could not catch the early frontrunners, tripping the timers with all the rails still up in 40.618 seconds. With a quick time of 39.97 seconds, Madden and Darry Lou were quick on their feet, but an unfortunate rail kept them out of the top spot. The last to tackle the track, Bluman and Ladriano Z looked to defend their title as the WEF Week Nine victors of the same grand prix in 2019, but were just slightly off the pace, crossing the finish line in 39.96 seconds to edge out Keenan as the second-fastest double-clear partnership, solidifying the lead spot in the lap of honor for Bond and Donatello 141. With Bluman and Ladriano Z, owned by Over The Top Stables LLC, claiming second position, Israel clinched the one-two spots, followed by Keenan and Chansonette Farm LLC’s Fasther in the final podium spot.
At only 9 years old, Donatello 141 was the youngest horse of the 40 in the competition and is already making a name for himself with Bond in the irons. The two have been paired together for three years, and Bond has brought the horse up the ranks during that tenure. With top results for the Israelis stacking up, the team looks towards its first ever appearance in the Olympic Games during the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Week Nine of WEF will continue Sunday with the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m CSI5* and $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix, giving show jumpers another shot at the prize money to conclude weekly competition.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Ashlee Bond (ISR) – $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* winner
On her reaction to winning:
“The feeling is surreal, it hasn’t really hit me, the emotions of tonight. Not only was it my first 5* grand prix win here, it was ever. I’ve never won a 5* grand prix ever. I’ve gone clear in a few, but winning it was not there yet. My horse jumped the first round so beautifully and he’s such a naturally fast horse, but he does have a smaller stride. I knew this kind of jump-off, Daniel [Bluman] probably had a bigger advantage. He lightly rubbed the first jump and after that I was like, ‘OK good, I can push it a little bit more than I was originally planning to.’ It worked out today. It’s a little shocking; I can’t believe he just did that. I have had some great horses. Cadet was a superstar but he never won a main CSI5* grand prix. At only 9 years old for him, I’m a little numb.”
On the horse’s progression:
“My first 5* grand prix was at Deeridge three weeks ago and he was double clear and fourth. I did not push it in the jump-off because it was our first grand prix at this level. He’s really level-headed and the height of the jump has never bothered him. I’ve had him since he was 6 and everytime I asked him to move up it took a couple tries, and then it’s like he locks it into his computer and just does it easily. I know him really well and there were only four in it, so I took a risk because even if I’m fourth I make good money!”
On her early years with Donatello 141:
“We got him in March of his 6-year-old year so exactly three years ago. He did not turn left, he would just exit the ring. My dad spent a lot of time working on turning. He used to be my worst turner and now he has become my best. He came from Germany so he was ridden very differently than I ride. It took him about a year to understand my rhythm and the ability to compact his stride. In the middle of his 7-year-old year it kind of clicked and he did his first 2* grand prix. He was very consistent and then I moved him up to the 1.50m, and then after a few rails he figured it out and became a clear round machine. I asked quite a bit of him as an 8-year-old. He won the World Cup Qualifier in Del Mar in only our second 1.60m class. After that I knew this horse was special. I have such a connection with him now and I know him so well.”
On Team Israel’s performance:
“I think it’s incredible! I think it’s what we all dreamed of having Israel become, and like Daniel said, for it to happen so quickly is really impressive. Obviously Dani [Waldman] is a force to be reckoned with, so it will be great to have her back with [Lizziemary]. We’ve come together as a team, as a family, and you can really feel that we all support each other and root for each other. Now I feel like the future is really bright for our team. We might not have the depth that other countries have, but the riders that we do have are really special and we have some really special horses. I expect great things from our country, just like tonight!”
On her plans:
“My original plan was to go to California for a month and chill at home, then I was going to go to Europe. I am scared of the coronavirus because my daughter is very young and you don’t know if you have it for two weeks and you could be quarantined, so I think I will probably do Thunderbird and Spruce Meadows, which are big enough and tough enough. That’s not 100 percent locked in but as of right now that’s the tentative plan.”
Daniel Bluman (ISR) – $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* second place
On his reaction to the results:
“It was an interesting class. I don’t think I rode very well the first round, I just didn’t stick to my plan and honestly didn’t ride well. There are some classes where you ride amazing and have one down, then there’s sometimes you ride incredibly bad like I did in the first round and the jumps stay up. For the jump-off, I wanted to give it a go but I didn’t want to push the limit. I felt like the horse covered for me in the first round, so I wanted to cover for him in the second round and give a safe ride. I was able to watch Ashlee [Bond] go. She had a beautiful ride and it’s always very exciting for me. She rides for the same country and put in a great effort with the horse. Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go in the Nations Cup and she’s working hard and putting in a lot of effort, so I am delighted to see it paid off. I know if I had to take second place today and it’s to her, I am very happy with the result.”
On Team Israel’s progress:
“For a country that wasn’t really a part of this sport in the big picture a few years ago, to be getting the results we’re getting right now is very strong. It also has not hit me that we ended up one-two in one of the most important grand prix in the United States and North America. It’s great, we’re trying to do things well and congratulations to her and her whole team. Everybody puts in a great effort and it’s just a great night for Team Israel.”
On his plans:
“We are going to go back to New York for April and May at our family place in North Salem. The plan is to go to Europe. The team got an invitation to jump in Aachen this year, which is pretty exciting. We have Tokyo as the main goal of the season. We are going to be based out of Hans and Jerome Dubbeldam’s place in Holland to set ourselves up for success.”
Lillie Keenan (USA) – $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* third place
On her performance:
“I was really happy with how I rode the first round and I was really upset with how I rode the jump-off. In the jump-off I should have gone faster and I should have believed in it more, but I couldn’t be happier with him. I tried to watch a little bit of Ashlee’s ride. Obviously, she is a ridiculously competitive rider, so I should have known I had to press it a bit more, but I am really happy. Six months ago I never would have thought I would be here with this horse. I should have gone faster because I know the horse would have left all the jumps up, but I am thrilled to be third behind these two guys.”
“My horse is the best horse I’ve ever ridden. I’ve ridden a lot of special horses but he’s ridiculously talented and brave with all the ability. I’ve had him for a year now and anyone that knows me and knows that horse, he’s always shown he can do it. He just had a little trouble with rideability for quite some time. I always knew the horse could be the best, so I wanted to take the time to try to improve that and it’s changed so much. My horse is unbelievable and I truly believe he could win any class in the world if I do my job properly. In the first round there were two instances where he kind of jumped me loose, which shouldn’t happen because my foundation is equitation, but it did. I remember thinking ‘Thank God this is the animal I am on.’ He didn’t blink and just kept going because he knew what had to be done.”
On her plans:
“We will go back to New York, where I keep my horses at Castle Hill with McLain Ward. Then, we will go to Europe pending he coronavirus. In my head, that’s not a thing right now.”
$401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults / R1 Time / R2 Faults / R2 Time
1. Donatello 141 / Ashlee Bond / ISR / 0 | 79.09 / 0 | 39.64
2. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / ISR / 0 | 82.01 / 0 | 39.967
3. Fasther / Lillie Keenan / USA / 0 / 83.89 / 0 | 40.618
4. Darry Lou / Beezie Madden / USA / 0 | 80.98/ 4 | 39.977
5. Keoki / David Blake / IRL / 1 | 84.03
6. Antidote De Mars / Bliss Heers / USA / 4 | 77.73
7. Dinky Toy VD Kranenburg / Lorenzo De Luca / ITA / 4 | 80.55
8. Hester / Lucy Deslauriers / USA / 4 | 80.85
9. Bacara D’Archonfosse / Cassio Rivetti / BRA / 4 | 81.59
10. Legacy / Daniel Coyle / IRL / 4 | 81.97
11. Chacna / Enrique Gonzalez / MEX / 4 | 82.51
12. PSG Final / Cian O’Connor / IRL / 4 | 82.55