New York, NY - Show jumping returned to Wollman Rink as it played host to the third day of competition at the second-annual Rolex Central Park Horse Show with the $212,000 U.S. Open CSI 3* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, on Friday evening. Colombia's Daniel Bluman has been waiting to win a coveted Rolex watch since the start of his career in show jumping, but the wait is over after he piloted Conconcreto Believe to a win Friday night under the lights of New York City.
In addition to the 3* victory, Bluman was crowned the U.S. Open's leading rider after scores from his third-place finish in Thursday's U.S. Open $40,000 FEI Speed, presented by Canadian Pacific Railway, were combined with Friday's win. For the inaugural U.S. Open title, Bluman was presented with a $25,000 rider bonus in addition to his share of the grand prix purse.
International designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil built a 15-effort test for 26 contenders, but only two jumped clear for a two-horse duel in the jump-off. Bluman won over Sharn Wordley, of New Zealand, with the fastest of two double-clear efforts. Wordley notched a clear ride with Sky Group's Barnetta from fifth in the original order before Bluman and his nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Ukato x Larista) guaranteed a tie-breaker for owners Blue Star Investments.
Returning first, Wordley was clean and tidy in 43.35 seconds, but Bluman stopped the timers almost two seconds faster in 41.39 for the win. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm's Chaqui Z picked up a single time fault in the first round to finish third. The top-placing American rider, Candice King, also left the ring with one fault on the clock just one second slower than Sweetnam for fourth on Bellissimo, LLC's Kismet 50. After a win on Thursday night, Ireland's Conor Swail rounded out the top five aboard Simba De La Roque as the fastest four-fault pair for owner Susan Grange.
"To win the U.S. Open title and that watch in Central Park - it's a crown for a champion, so I'm very pleased tonight," said Bluman. While Bluman was all smiles with his Rolex in hand, he admitted that he felt the pressure after Wordley's clean trip over the short course. "I got to see Sharn go and he had a really beautiful round. My horse is naturally fast, so I pretty much just wanted to do the same thing that he did and keep the jumps up. She's been having a great week and felt fantastic in the warm-up. I knew if I did my job she was going to do hers and it was going to be a good opportunity for us," he added."
Wordley didn't leave the door open for Bluman and planned to use Barnetta's skill in the corners to force him into the inside turns. "My strategy going in was to go medium fast and make Daniel do the turns and hope he slipped up and had a rail," he said. "I knew I couldn't outrun him and I just wanted to go clear."
Conconcreto Believe's speed was paramount, however, and delivered Bluman the win. Sweetnam's single time fault left him out of the jump-off, but he was proud to jump his nine-year-old Zangersheide stallion - Chaqui Z - to a top-three placing. "The atmosphere was great last year, but I think it was even better this year," he said. "I'm delighted with my horse. The time fault was my fault and the course jumped world-class."
A two-horse jump-off still proved to be exciting for the onlooking crowd and Jorge admits he was pleased with how the riders approached his track. "This happens in top show jumping - the level of the competitors are very high and if I had added a second in the time allowed we may have had eight or nine in the jump-off," he said. "This venue calls for a horse that can pull from their experience, rise to the occasion and understands the situation."
Mark Bellissimo, CEO of International Equestrian Group (IEG), spearheaded the U.S. Open format for the Rolex Central Park Horse Show and was happiest to see the excitement that filled Wollman Rink for its unveiling. "When Daniel won, he took off his helmet and showed great emotion. That is what the sport needs to get to the next level; athletes who are out there excited about winning," he said. "We have a great international representation here tonight, and we believe that this U.S Open will turn into something spectacular."
In its second year in an iconic location, the Rolex Central Park Horse Show won't be the last competition of its kind for IEG, according to Bellissimo.
"This is a sport you have to bring to the people and I think you infiltrate that in large American cities and unique locations in order to elevate the interest," he said. "This show was a dream many years ago and we brought it to a reality last year. Rolex took a very blind bet on us and it is very rare that they put their brand on anything that is unproven. I think on the banner out front there are 32 sponsors, most of which are corporate sponsors. We're starting to see a transition from this being an exhibitor-financed sport to a corporate and commercial one. This could be the birthplace of modern, American, commercialized show jumping. It's going to take a couple of years, but we're well on our way."
Final Results: U.S. Open $212,000 CSI 3* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex
Place Entry # Horse Rider Country Owner Faults/Time
1 21 CONCONCRETO BELIEVE DANIEL BLUMAN COL BLUE STAR INVESTMENTS 0/0/ 41.39
2 12 BARNETTA SHARN WORDLEY NZL SKY GROUP 0/0/43.35
3 1 CHAQUI Z SHANE SWEETNAM IRL SPY COAST FARM 1/82.09
4 72 KISMET 50 CANDICE KING USA BELLISSIMO, LLC 1/83.07
5 5 SIMBA DE LA ROQUE CONOR SWAIL IRL SUSAN GRANGE 4/78.73
6 22 CAT BALLOU MOLLY ASHE-CAWLEY USA LOUISBURG FARM 4/79.06
7 4 UCEKO KENT FARRINGTON USA RCG FARM 4/79.60
8 26 CONTHENDRIX ANDRE THIEME GER ANDRE THIEME 4/80.39
9 15 BRIANDA ALI WOLFF USA JOHN C. WOLFF 4/80.44
10 25 WANNICK WH CHRISTINE MCCREA USA CANDY TRIBBLE 4/81.69
11 14 BINKIE DAVID BLAKE IRL PINE HOLLOW FARM 4/1.86
12 81 URUS 2 LIUBOV KOCHETOVA RUS LIUBOV KOCHETOVA 4/81.88
For more information, visit www.centralparkhorseshow.com