Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 13, 2020 – A field of 40 top show jumping athletes representing 13 different nations made their way into the International Ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) Saturday evening for a global showdown under the lights. All after the lion’s share of the prize money during the first CSI5* grand prix of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), athletes and their mounts were prepared to put their best foot forward in the $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5*. Marking the return for many to high-performance CSI5* competition following the COVID-19 outbreak, athletes from around the world had the chance to showcase the skills they polished up on during the break from competition. After a riveting jump off, which was narrowed down to just nine competitors, it was ultimately Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro who would save the best for last to claim the momentous victory as their own.
Course Designer Kelvin Bywater (GBR) set a 13-effort first-round track to test the starting field. As the first pair to enter the arena, Devin Ryan (USA) and Eddie Blue, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by LL Show Jumpers, LLC, showcased the first clear round of the evening, setting the bar high for those to follow. Prior to the halfway mark, just three more athletes would manage a clear effort, including Canada’s Mario Deslauriers, United States’ Jessica Springsteen, and Ireland’s Betram Allen. In the end, only five more competitors would join the list of jump-off contenders: Emily Moffitt (GBR), Lucy Deslauriers (USA), Martin Fuchs (SUI), Beezie Madden (USA) and Sweetnam (IRL).
Bywater’s shortened seven-effort track introduced two new obstacles to the arena and left various spots open for athletes to cut corners and shave time. As the pathfinders, Ryan and Eddie Blue set the pace at 38.74 seconds after leaving all of the rails intact. Horse-and-rider combinations that followed would find difficulty with the tight turns, until Switzerland’s Fuchs entered the arena aboard his 2019 Rolex Grand Prix champion partner Clooney 51. The 15-year-old Westphalian gelding, owned by Luigi Baler, is no stranger to a high-pressure jump-off, and despite having over one year off of CSI5* competition, the pair put down an effortless ride to take over the lead, finishing in 37.163 seconds.
As the final pair to enter the arena, Sweetnam and Alejandro, a 12-year-old Zweibrucken gelding owned by Sweet Oak Farm, Spy Coast Farm and Seabrook LLC, showcased a nail-biting jump-off round and a strong fight to the finish. The pair left out strides and cut every corner they could as he narrowly overtook Fuchs’ lead by just one-tenth of a second, finishing in 37.034 seconds. In the end, it would be Sweetnam donning the winning cooler and blue ribbon in the victory gallop aboard his partner of two years, with Fuchs and Clooney 51 claiming second place. After a consistent performance the entire evening, Ryan and his longtime partner Eddie Blue would round out the top three.
Competition for Week 5 will conclude CSI5* competition Sunday with the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic, kicking off at 10:45am.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Shane Sweetnam – winner of the $401,000 Douglass Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5*
On his win aboard Alejandro:
“I’ve had Alejandro for two years, I got him when he was quite green and we’ve developed a very good relationship. The [COVID-19 outbreak] was good for him because it gave him time to chill out a bit without traveling and doing bigger classes. Since he has really been on form and has placed in the top four in every grand prix he has done. So far this circuit, I blew it with the last CSI3* grand prix under the lights because I was too far off the last fence so I was mad at myself, it wasn’t really [Alejandro’s] fault. I made up for it today and he made a difference.”
On the jump-off :
“Clooney 51 is one of the best horses in the world and I watched Devin [Ryan] go to start and saw his numbers so I just thought about having a good rhythm from the start. I tried to do the same as Devin, and I have a very quick horse, [Alejandro] is quick in the air, and obviously we were very close at the end so you have to have a little bit of luck to get there. It happened today.”
On the difficult element in the first round track:
“The third fence’s colors are a little bit funny anyway, and the last CSI3* grand prix here did not have a liverpool, and it had a liverpool underneath it here today. It jumped funny in the last grand prix here, but I think with the colors and the liverpool right out of the corner, greener horses got a little bit confused there. That’s why it was so hard.”
Martin Fuchs – second place
On how Clooney 51 felt:
“Clooney felt great, he always does. He is a very special horse. It has been 14 months since he jumped his last big class and he comes out here and he just shows again why he is one of the best horses there is. He jumped really well in both rounds and I had a nice jump-off. I had an extra stride in the jump-off from the third to fourth fence and that’s where I lost it against Shane [Sweetnam] who rode a really nice jump-off. It didn’t even look like he took that much risk, he just let his horse canter and he beat us all today.”
On keeping Clooney 51 fit:
“Clooney got a well-deserved break after his Rolex Grand Prix win in Geneva in 2019 and then he was actually coming back in shape for the Rolex Grand Slam of the Dutch Masters, which we all know was canceled. I gave him a long break and just showed him in a couple of CSI2* classes last year, eight classes maximum at 1.45m last year alone. I jumped him once a week, I rode him normal, we just didn’t do anything bigger with him. I came here and he did two national classes and he was ready this week for the grand prix.”
On returning to 5* competition:
“When you have a year off of big showing in big classes, everything feels like new again. I was very nervous today with Clooney today even though he has done it all, I wasn’t sure how he was going to perform the first night out again and the first time in a big class against the best horses in the world. It’s really satisfying to see everything is still in place and that me as a rider I still make the right choices and my horse still competes like he did 14 months ago. Thank you to [Douglas Elliman Real Estate] for the amazing support and for sponsoring this grand prix. For us riders it’s great that we get to come here to Florida and show here at the Winter Equestrian Festival. If I was at home in Europe there are only CSI2* classes so there isn’t really the level of that we would like to compete at. For me this is a great opportunity that I get to jump here and that we get so many generous CSI5* grand prix classes.”
Devin Ryan – third place
On the jump-off:
“I felt he was really jumping tonight, so I thought I would give it a bit of a shot. He has a massive stride and he is not the quickest horse in the air, I think Shane [Sweetnam’s] horse is a bit quicker across the ground. Martin [Fuchs] just rode a better track than I did, I could have left out a couple of strides in a couple of places just turning back tighter. I haven’t really been in a jump-off with him in awhile or on a consistent basis and I think you get a little rusty at that level doing it. I just wanted to put down a nice effort where they had to chase me a little bit early on and it seemed to work out decently.”
$401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / R1 Time | R1 Faults / R2 Time | R2 Faults
1. Alejandro / Shane Sweetnam / Sweet Oak, Spy Coast & Seabrook LLC / IRL / 0 | 75.94 / 0 | 37.034
2. Clooney 51 / Martin Fuchs / Luigi Baler / SUI / 0 | 77.91 / 0 | 37.163
3. Eddie Blue / Devin Ryan / LL Show Jumpers LLC / USA / 0 | 78.64 / 0 | 38.748
4. Garant / Beezie Madden / Abigail Wexner / USA / 0 | 78.35 / 0 | 46.665
5. Don Juan Van de Donkhoeve / Jessica Springsteen / Stone Hill Farm / USA / 0 | 77.64 / 4 | 37.111
6. Pacino Amiro / Bertram Allen / Aiden McGrory / IRL / 0 | 75.26 / 4 | 37.188
7. Bardolina 2 / Mario Deslauriers / Wishing Well Farm LLC / CAN / 0 | 78.45 / 4 | 37.613
8. Hester / Lucy Deslauriers / Lisa Deslauriers / USA / 0 | 77.22 / 4 | 37.655
9. Winning Good / Emily Moffitt / Poden Farm / GBR / 0 | 76.55 / 4 | 44.268
10. Dieu Merci Van T&L / Eric Lamaze / Rein Family LLC & Little Creek Investments Inc. / CAN / 1 | 80.54
11. Giardo / Lauren Hough / Harris Equestrian LLC / USA / 1 | 80.54
12. Explosion W / Ben Maher / Pamela Wright, Charlotte Rossetter & Ben Maher / GBR / 4 | 75.01