Wellington, Fla. – March 5, 2017 – A blustery Sunday afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center was the setting for the $216,000 Grand Prix CSIO4*, presented by Lugano Diamonds, during the eighth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). After an incredibly successful week winning Thursday’s WEF Challenge Cup and helping Team Ireland clinch Friday’s Nations Cup competition, Irish rider, Shane Sweetnam, came out on top after a thrilling and very fast jump-off with his mount, Chaqui Z.
“This has been a dream week for me,” said Sweetnam. “If you can win the WEF and the grand prix or come close to winning either during any week of WEF is an amazing feat.”
Chaqui Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide stallion owned by Spy Coast Farm, jumped the first round of the class easily with a large and even stride. The pair entered the jump-off and although the bay stallion slipped slightly after the second jump, they made up the time and galloped into first place with a time of 41.79 seconds.
“The way the class went at first with a fantastic first round and then 17 in the jump-off, I was thinking that I had no hope,” remarked Sweetnam. “[Chaqui Z] is very good at turns, which he proved, but he isn’t the fastest. It worked out really well; I was quick and he did the turns very well and oddly enough I lasted.”
The course, designed by American Ken Krome, who designed all of the courses in the International Arena during Week Eight, was a bit unusual as it provided a lot of clear rounds, but a thoughtful jump-off proved to be more difficult.
“I think Ken did a great job,” said Sweetnam. “He started off with the WEF and I was impressed with that because it wasn’t just a speed class, it was a lot of jumping. Then Friday night he only had three double-clears, which was great. Today was a very good jump-off, which makes it more exciting and makes people want to come watch.”
During the awards presentation, Sweetnam was not only presented with the blue ribbon and commemorative cooler, but he was also awarded the Niall Grimes Perpetual Trophy. Presented by ESP’s Michael Stone, the Niall Grimes Perpetual Trophy is awarded to the leading Irish rider during the CSIO Nations Cup week at WEF.
Fellow Irishman Conor Swail followed up with a clear effort several rounds after Sweetnam and he had his sights set on beating his Nations Cup teammate.
“I have been second to Shane four times now by .2 seconds or less and today it was .1 so at least I am getting closer,” Swail laughed.
Rubens LS La Silla, owned by Vanessa Mannix of Canada, is a less experienced mount for Swail and the rider was unsure if he would be able to keep up with the list of top ranked world riders that populated the jump-off.
“I felt a little bit the same as Shane when I saw that there were 17 clear,” recalled Swail. “My horse isn’t the fastest horse; he is a bit rangey and a slower type. I thought if we could get into the top four it would be a good result and I am building on what is becoming a consistent and promising horse.
“I was lucky enough with a good draw, as I was second to last to go, and I felt I could beat Shane,” continued Swail. “The big key for me was that I needed six strides from fences one to two and, unfortunately, I got a slow shot to number one and I wasn’t able to get the six and I ended up chasing after that. But I was so, so pleased with my horse.”
Ali Wolff, hailing from New Albany, Ohio, and Casall, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, rounded out the top three after a close jump-off competition with fourth place rider, Beezie Madden.
“Going early on, it can be a little hard because you know that you have so many people behind you,” said Wolff. “I just had to go in knowing that I had to go my speed and a little bit faster than that.
“Luckily everything just kind of came up and I was able to finish on the same pace,” Wolff continued. “We had a lucky rub on the last fence but he was so good for me and studied the fences. This is also his first week showing at WEF and he was fresh, which I think helped too.”
Wolff was also presented with Week Eight’s Leading Lady Rider award, presented by real estate agent Martha Jolicoeur.
Legenday American rider, Beeze Madden, aboard Coach and Great Britain’s Jessica Mendoza on Toy Boy rounded out the top five places in the competitive class.
Grand prix jumping action will continue next week at the Winter Equestrian Festival with CSI5* competition, as well as hunter and equitation classes, leading up to Saturday’s $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*.
$216,000 Grand Prix CSIO4*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Faults | Time
1. Chaqui Z / Shane Sweetnam / IRL / 0 | 41.79
2. Rubens LS La Silla / Conor Swail / IRL / 0 | 41.82
3. Casall / Ali Wolff / USA / 0 | 43.02
4. Coach / Beezie Madden / USA / 0 | 43.11
5. Toy Boy / Jessica Mendoza / GBR / 0 | 43.23
6. Prince Royal Z / Pedro Junqueira M / BRA / 0 | 45.77
7. Barnetta / Sharn Wordley / NZL / 0 | 46.01
8. Gazelle / Kent Farrington / USA / 4 | 40.87
9. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / ISR / 4 | 40.90
10. Waterford / Lauren Hough / USA / 4 | 41.68