Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 10, 2018 – Packed to the brim with fans Saturday evening, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center played host to its most prestigious class of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival season to date, with 40 world-class athletes vying for the top spot in the $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix. Offering such a large purse, the class drew the likes of high-profile veterans, but many fell victim to a technical course. Ultimately, Israel’s 27-year-old Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z, owned by Over The Top Stables LLC, bested a thrilling two-horse jump-off to claim the lion’s share of the purse and the champion spot on the podium as the quickest double clear ride of the night.
In the first round of competition, a steady drought of fault-free trips over course designer Kelvin Bywater’s (GBR) 16-effort first round track plagued the first half of the entrants. As the fourth pair in the ring, Peter Lutz and Robin De Ponthual, owned by Katherine Gallagher and Michael Meller, teased the crowd with a clean ride, but tripped the timers a hair too late to accrue one time fault against them. It was not until the 21st duo to ride, Switzerland’s Beat Mandli and Dsarie, the feisty mare owned by Grant Road Partners GMBH known for her playful leaps in the ring, that the curse was finally broken as the pair kept all the rails in the cups within the time allowed to earn the first place in the jump-off.
Continuing down the order of go, the rails continued to fall time and time again. World-ranked #1 Kent Farrington aboard his and Robin Parsky’s Gazelle was not able to master the tricky course, nor was #3 ranked in the world McLain Ward, with the ride on his ever-trusty HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and Francois Mathy. With only four contenders remaining, Cian O’Connor and Armin Himmelreich’s Clenur laid down a textbook ride leaving all the jumps standing, but like Lutz, he earned a singular time fault to keep him out of the jump-off. As the final entry, a second round of competition depended on Bluman and Ladriano Z turning in a clean ride, which is exactly what they did to the tune of a roarous applause.
Following the fault-heavy first phase, only Bluman and Mandli qualified to take their turns once again around the International Ring. The duos returned to take on Bywater’s abridged 9-obstacle jump-off course, with Mandli and Dsarie riding another clean trip in 40.473 seconds. Bluman and Ladriano Z, the last to go, rode a similar track but managed to shave enough time to best Mandli, crossing the timers in 39.432 seconds to claim the top prize. As the fastest one-fault ride, O’Connor and Clenur of Ireland scored the third position.
Saturday’s win for Bluman came just one week after claiming the champions honors aboard Sancha LS in the $205,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI4*, held on the derby field at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival facility. Originally from Colombia, Bluman only swapped nationalies to represent Israel in the last year, and has already managed to earn numerous accolades as an Israeli representative.
The fifth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival will continue Sunday, with jumper riders offered another shot at the prize money in the FEI CSI5* $70,000 Hollow Creek 1.50m Classic, followed by the FEI CSI2* Equiline Grand Prix later in the afternoon. Another CSI5* class will return to the International Ring in two weeks with the FEI CSI5* $384,000 WEF 7 Grand Prix, once again sure to draw a large crowd.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Daniel Bluman – $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix champion
On his reaction to winning:
“These two riders [Mandli and O’Connor] have been idols since I was growing up, so every chance that I have to beat them or be on top of them is something that I treasure because you never know when the next time is going to be. I was just happy about the moment. I felt in a couple turns [in the jump-off] I was slower than Beat until the end when I landed and I looked up, I was actually surprised that I had gotten it. I just didn’t think that it was enough.”
On his thoughts of the first course:
“To begin with, for me to have to go last was the first time I ever had to go last in a 5* grand prix, so I was just focusing on making my plan. I walked the course and I thought the course was very nice – maybe too nice. I stuck to my plan and rode the horse after walking the course. I saw the class unfold and was surprised to see that rails were falling everywhere. A fantastic job from the course designer. I think it was a beautiful class. Nobody got hurt, there were rails all over the place and he did a fantastic job.”
On his plan for the jump-off:
“When Beat went into the ring I figured he was going to jump a clear round. I was thinking in my head it was going to be a fast jump-off and that was probably going to be the end of my chances of winning. I have a lot of respect for him and I love the horse he’s riding. He was the first one to actually do the lines the way that I thought that I could do them in order to be inside of the time allowed, so my plan was just pretty much to replicate his round and trust my horse because I think he’s one of the best out there. I had the luck on my side because I went after [Mandli]. I got to see exactly what he did and Kent Farrington was in the warm up watching him with me and said ‘just do the same that he did and pick up places where you think you can be faster.’ I thought the only place that Beat had left for me a spot to be faster, and yet not take too much risk, was from fence 1 to 2, so I did the one less and my horse covered the ground easily. He delivered so I’m very happy.”
On competing for Israel:
“Israel does mean a lot to me. I’ve said in the past for me to change nationalities was a big thing. I’m a very proud Colombian as well, and I have been very blessed to be able to listen to the Israeli anthem more in the last year since I’ve changed than ever before. I was sort of reflecting on that [during the prize ceremony] and being thankful and enjoying the moment.
On why he chose to ride Ladriano Z:
“Apardi and Sancha [LS] have been my top horses for the past few years, but I’ve seen Ladriano has the chance to step up and become yet a new championship horse for me. Sancha has done a lot already. My plan for her is to pick and choose classes and try to be competitive. I’m lucky to have such a strong group of horses.”
Beat Mandli – $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix reserve champion
On Dsarie and her signature bucks:
“She’s very uncomplicated in any venue – indoors, outdoors and on grass. It makes life very easy for me. She just wants to please in anything she does so there was no special preparation. She jumped last week in Deeridge already a very good round. She just loves the venue here with the lights and is really just been a super horse for me and I’m very lucky to have her. She loves life obviously, and she’s a happy girl. She loves her bucks and I let her do it because I don’t see why I should take it away from her. She does it outside when you take her for trail rides, she does it everywhere, so I don’t see why to stop it. She loves doing it. I didn’t teach her that.”
On his plan for the jump-off:
“You kind of set the strategy before you go in with two horses. I thought I had done enough, but when I came out I knew I had the seven [strides] to number two, so obviously that was what Daniel said was faster. I’m super happy with the horse and second place is great.”
Cian O’Connor – $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix third place
“He’s a very big horse. He’s 18 hands maybe and a big horse to maneuver around, but the big ring suits him. It’s only the fourth or fifth class I’ve done with him here. I just got him after Christmas and he’s stepped up very nicely and he jumped around well today.”
On the jump-off:
“We took a little bit of a wobble on the last line to the water tray vertical, and I was clear then and I just counted it down. I maybe could have been a little quicker coming to the third-to-last, but I was just over the time, but I’m very happy. These two horses were jumping really well so it would have probably been a tough task anyway, and I’m happy with my check.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults / R2 Faults / Time
$384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix
1. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / ISR / 0 | 71.39 / 0 | 39.432
2. Dsarie / Beat Mandli / SUI / 0 | 71.18 / 0 | 40.473
3. Clenur / Cian O’Connor / IRL / 1 | 73.04
4. Robin De Ponthual / Peter Lutz / USA / 1 | 73.28
5. Luibanta BH / Amanda Derbyshire / GBR / 4 | 69.12
6. Balermo / Tiffany Foster / CAN / 4 | 69.4
7. Waterford / Lauren Hough / USA / 4 | 69.79
8. Winning Good / Ben Maher / GBR / 4 | 70.65
9. HH Azur / McLain Ward / USA / 4 | 70.66
10. Fine Lady 5 / Eric Lamaze / CAN / 4 | 70.69
11. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / 4 | 71.6
12. Tiny Toon Semilly / Eve Jobs / USA / 4 | 71.87
For full results, click here.