Wellington, FL- Ireland's Shane Sweetnam concluded an exceptional week of CSIO 4* competition at the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, with a win aboard Chaqui Z in Sunday's $216,000 Grand Prix CSIO 4*, presented by Lugano Diamonds.
After winning Thursday's $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 aboard Cobolt, and Friday's $150,000 FEI Nations' Cup riding Chaqui Z for team Ireland, Sweetnam led the round of honor ahead of teammates Conor Swail and Rubens LS La Silla in Sunday's feature event. Ali Wolff and Casall placed third after also helping team USA to a silver medal in Friday's Nations' Cup.
The Winter Equestrian Festival continues in its ninth week of competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on March 8-12, 2017. The $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI 5*, presented by The Bainbridge Companies, is the week's feature event on Saturday, March 11. The 12-week WEF circuit continues through April 2, 2017, awarding over $9 million in prize money.
Course designer Ken Krome (USA) concluded the week with 43 entries in Sunday's grand prix and a 17-horse jump-off. The large number over the short course set an interesting challenge, as riders raced against the clock, and only seven cleared the tiebreaking course without fault. Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm's Chaqui Z took the win in 41.79 seconds. Swail and Vanessa Mannix's Rubens LS La Silla were close behind in 41.82 seconds. Wolff and Blacklick Bend Farm's Casall clocked in at 43.02 seconds.
USA's Beezie Madden jumped Abigail Wexner's Coach to a fourth place finish in 43.11 seconds. Great Britain's Jessica Mendoza and Toy Boy placed fifth in 43.23 seconds.
Sweetnam swept international competition during WEF 8 to be awarded the Niall Grimes "Cheers" Perpetual Trophy as the top Irish rider during CSIO week, an honor he also received in 2011. His winning mount for Nations' Cup and grand prix competition was Chaqui Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide stallion (Chacco-Blue x Quinar Z)
"It was brilliant. Honestly, this is a dream week for me," Sweetnam acknowledged. "Any week of WEF, if you can win the WEF (Challenge Cup) and the grand prix, it nearly can make a WEF [circuit]. So to win the WEF, the Nations' Cup, and then the grand prix, it is amazing."
Remarking on his win on Sunday, Sweetnam stated, "It was a fantastic first round, but then there were 17 in the jump-off, and I was thinking that I had no hope. Chaqui is very good at turns, which he proved, but he is not always the fastest. I was quick, and Chaqui did the turns super. Lucky enough, my time lasted."
Sweetnam is a fan of Ken Krome's courses after the success he had throughout the week. The rider noted, "I think all week he did a great job. I was impressed with the WEF starting off, because it was not just a speed class. It was a lot of jumping, but you did not have to run your horse off its feet. Friday night, he only had three double clears, which was a great course. Today, okay there were probably more clears than you would want, but then it was a very good jump-off. That is the way the sport seems to be going. It makes it more exciting, and it makes people want to come watch. It just gets faster and faster. There were a lot of good horses, and it made for a very good class."
For his second place finish, Swail was also aboard his winning Nations' Cup mount with the 11-year-old Mexican Sport Horse stallion (Rebozo LS La Silla x Cash) Rubens LS La Silla. Remarking on his round, Swail stated, "I think I felt a little bit the same as Shane when there were 17 clear. My horse is not the fastest horse. He is a big, rangy, slower type. I was thinking, 'Okay, if we can get into the top four, I am building on what is becoming a very consistent and promising horse.' I was lucky with a good draw; I was second to last to go. When I was going into the ring, I felt I could beat Shane. The big key for me was I needed six strides from one to two. Unfortunately, I got a slow shot to number one, and I was not able to get it. I was a little bit chasing after that, but how the horse jumped and how he did, I was so pleased with him."
Wolff's mount for CSIO week was Casall, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall ASK x Capitol I) that she has been partnered with for five years.
"We have just kind of been bringing him up the ranks," Wolff detailed. "I bought him as a sales horse to maybe do the Junior/Amateurs on, but he ended up just jumping higher and higher. He still has a bright future ahead of him. He is pretty seasoned now, but he has just been phenomenal for me and my career."
Describing her jump-off round, Wolff added, "Going early on, it is a little hard because I knew I had about 12 other people behind me, including Shane and Conor. But then I saw Kent go, and he made an error and was a little rushed. I just had to go in knowing that I had to go my own speed. I started off with my pace that I wanted. I was able to finish on the same pace, and everything kind of came up naturally. I got a little bit of a lucky rub on the last fence, but he was really good for me."
For her success this week, Wolff was also presented the Leading Lady Rider Award for week eight, presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Also competing in the International Arena on Sunday, Tracy Williams and Bendoctro won the $10,000 Horseware Ireland Don Little Masters Classic. Lucy Deslauriers and Mario Deslauriers' Curo won the $10,000 SJHOF High Junior Jumper Classic, presented by Sleepy P Ranch.
The Winter Equestrian Festival continues in its ninth week of competition on March 8-12, 2017. For more information and full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.
Final Results: $216,000 Grand Prix CSIO 4*, Presented by Lugano Diamonds
1. CHAQUI Z: 2006 Zangersheide stallion by Chacco-Blue x Quinar Z SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/41.79
2. RUBENS LS LA SILLA: 2006 SLS stallion by Rebozo LS La Silla x Cash CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Vanessa Mannix: 0/0/41.82
3. CASALL: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall ASK x Capitol I ALI WOLFF (USA), Blacklick Bend Farm: 0/0/43.02
4. COACH: 2008 Holsteiner gelding by Con Air x Corofino I BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/43.11
5. TOY BOY: 2008 BCP gelding by Unknown x Unknown JESSICA MENDOZA (GBR), Jessica Mendoza: 0/0/43.23
6. PRINCE ROYAL Z MFS: 2007 Zangersheide stallion by Prince de Revel x Ramiro Z PEDRO MUYLAERT (BRA), Stenio da Silva: 0/0/45.77
7. BARNETTA: 2004 Westphalian gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Polydor SHARN WORDLEY (NZL), Sky Group: 0/0/46.01
8. GAZELLE: 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare by Kashmir van Schuttershof x Indoctro KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington & Robin Parsky: 0/4/40.87
9. LADRIANO Z: 2008 Zangersheide gelding by Lawito x Baloubet du Rouet DANIEL BLUMAN (ISR), Blue Star Investments & Alexa Schwitzer: 0/4/40.90
10. WATERFORD: 2003 KWPN gelding by Coolcorron Cool Diamond x Julio Mariner XX LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Laura and Meredith Mateo: 0/4/41.68
11. BULL RUN'S TESTIFY: 2004 Selle Francais gelding by Dollar du Murier x Oberon du Moulin KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers Inc: 0/4/42.27
12. SERINGAT: 2006 Selle Francais gelding by Chef Rouge x Guillaume Tell CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/4/44.36