British grand prix victor needs a scoreboard double-take, grand slam contender stunned and a six-bar flyer

  • Every once in a while a jump-off leaves you speechless and Sunday’s Rolex grand prix at The Dutch Masters was truly exceptional. The prospect of having another rider continuing their journey for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping is brilliant news for the sport.

    Elsewhere, we watched Irish riders clear 1.85m in a Spanish six-bar and win a Dubai grand prix, while Great Britain’s James Smith continued his simply astounding run with grand prix victory on the Sunshine Tour. Here is your weekly round-up of international showjumping news and results.

    Fifty shades of scopey

    Irish showjumper Ciaran Nallon rode the nine-year-old Fifty Shades Of Grey (pictured, main image) over a 1.85m final fence to win the six-bar on the Andalucia Sunshine Tour. Thirteen combinations lined up but the Irish duo were the only faultless performers after the fourth round. At the show, British rider Matt Sampson also won a ranking class riding the 14-year-old mare Ebolensky.

    Breen’s grand prix success

    Trevor Breen and the super mare Germaine W sealed a brilliant run in the UAE with victory in the final CSI2* grand prix at the Emirates Equestrian Centre in Dubai. Drawn fourth in the nine-way jump-off, the pair swooped home fastest of the four double clears.

    “Germaine has been in super form the whole trip so I’m delighted,” Trevor told H&H. “She did two Nations Cups really well, we finished second in one, third in the other, we capped off the five-star competitions with a third in the grand prix, then she won the two-star grand prix here. I can’t ask for more than that.

    “The time allowed was quite tight in round one and there were a few riders clear with time faults, my brother Shane Breen [Can Ya Makan] was one of them, so it was a tough first round. I watched a couple go in the jump-off, but I had my plan and there were a couple of fast guys after me which made me go for it. So I did a couple of leave-out strides from fence one to two and to the last fence, so I think I really nicked it there.”

    Trevor describes Mandy Hall’s mare, a five-star winner in Dublin last year, as “a great horse for me”.

    “She loved Dubai,” said Trevor, who plans to target Royal Windsor next with Germaine W. “She likes the sun and she just seemed to get better and better out there.”

    Showjumping news: James Smith and Arkuga win the Andalucia Sunshine Tour grand prix

    James Smith and Arkuga win the Andalucia Sunshine Tour grand prix

    British grand prix riders are separated by just one hundredth of a second

    The CSI4* grand prix on week five of the Andalucia Sunshine Tour resulted in a British one-two, with James Smith (Arkuga) and Karl Robins (Equine America G Camille HBF) separated by just 0.01sec. James admitted he had to look twice at the score board after his round, not least because he thought he’d knocked the first fence down in the nine-way jump-off.

    “It was close! Arkuga jumped a bit to the side over the first fence and I half had it in my head that he’d knocked it down, but when I came back round everyone was shouting for me,” James told H&H. “Luckily it worked out – I had to look twice at the clock though because I still wasn’t sure!

    “I’m delighted to get a big win, he’s been so consistent,” James added of the Renwicks’ 12-year-old home-bred – by Arko III out of Laura’s multi-winning mare Beluga – who was named “Messi” by their football-loving son, Jack.

    “Big thanks to the Renwicks for letting me ride him, he’s naturally fast which makes everything so much easier. That’s probably the biggest grand prix track we’ve jumped so far and he just takes it in his stride. He has a great attitude – he wants to do it.”

    Arkuga is looked after by Nikki Park and delighted owner Laura said: “We are so incredibly proud to have bred this superstar who has formed such a brilliant partnership with James over the last few months. Over the moon is an understatement!”

    Showjumping news: McLain Ward and HH Azur winning the Rolex Grand Prix at the Dutch Masters

    McLain Ward and HH Azur win their second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam at the Dutch Masters

    Ward keeps his Grand Slam dream alive

    All roads now lead to Aachen this summer for US showjumper McLain Ward and the outstanding mare HH Azur. They won a second consecutive leg of the Rolex Grand Slam at The Dutch Masters in the Netherlands after one of the sport’s most spectacular jump-offs.

    “I am so proud of my team and my horse – and a little proud of myself,” said McLain, who is the first rider since Scott Brash in 2015 to claim two consecutive Majors in the now four-event series. “The Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping has truly raised the bar of the sport and winning a Major is one of the greatest moments in a rider’s career.”

    From a stellar line-up that included eight of the top 10 riders in the world, a mammoth field of 16 jumped clear in round one of Sunday’s Rolex grand prix. The track set by Louis Konickx had championship dimensions but even in round two, these world-class combinations made light work of the challenge.

    The jump-off ignited straight away with the opening riders coming out all guns blazing. Drawn fourth, McLain eclipsed the leading time set by Julien Epaillard of France riding Donatello D’Auge, rocketing home in 37.86sec. He had a few anxious moments as Simon Delestre (Cayman Jolly Jumper) scorched round in typical style and the Frenchman was up on the clock, only to hit the final Rolex oxer, dropping them to 10th behind the nine double clears. Less than a second split the top five riders, with Julien taking second and world number one Henrik von Eckermann finishing third on the incomparable King Edward.

    McLain had travelled from the US, where he has been competing at Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), for the event and was stunned by the turn of events, which keeps his Rolex Grand Slam dream alive in this, its 10th year.

    “I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet – it was a lot of stress having to watch the remaining 12 riders in the jump-off,” said McLain, who picked up a hefty €330,000 (just shy of £292,000) first prize. “The level here is so high and I think later tonight I will realise what we have achieved.”

    McLain’s previous success came in the Rolex grand prix of Geneva in December, again with “Annie”.

    “She is smarter than everybody else and is truly a queen,” he said. “I think she understands what is happening and really rises to the moment. She loves her job and the partnership that we have created is truly so special.

    “She is 17 now, so she does not compete as often any more – instead we just aim her at the most important competitions. She has an incredible physical ability, but what makes her truly stand out is her character. She is a warrior at heart. I use the term ‘Queen’ when referring to her, as she encapsulates every aspect of that term. Two years ago, I thought that it was the end of her career as she had several injuries, but she overcame them. At the beginning of the 2022 season, she was feeling better than ever, and we made the decision to keep competing her and then assess her later on in the season. She ended up having the best year of her career so far.

    “As long as she is still in love with the sport and happy, we will continue competing. I love spending time with her, whether that is hacking, training or competing – she is such a brilliant horse.”

    Young British superstars Harry Charles (Balou Du Reventon) and Joe Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel) both reached the jump-off for the Rolex grand prix, finishing with eight and 12 faults respectively, and both enjoyed a string of excellent placings throughout this five-star show.

    Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z winning the WEF grand prix

    Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z winning the WEF grand prix. Credit: Sportfot

    ‘We live to have moments like this’

    Daniel Bluman of Israel rode Ladriano Z to victory in the $425,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty CSI5* grand prix during week nine of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Florida, four years after winning the same event in 2019. Shane Sweetnam took second on James Kann Cruz, with Karl Cook third on the 13-year-old mare Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet.

    “I watched Shane’s round and his horse and mine are both big and scopey, so I tried to do the same as him and edge him in a couple places,” said Daniel.

    “At this time of the year, you have some of the greatest riders in the world here for the season so it’s very intense. We live to have moments like this where you’re competing against people you really admire and horses you really like. It was just the right group in the jump-off and I was really motivated to win it and when I crossed the timers I had a feeling I had.”

    Jad Dana and After Eight winning at WEF

    Jad Dana and After Eight winning at WEF. Credit: Sportfot

    ‘I truly thought I had no chance’: milestone 5* win for Lebanese rider

    Lebanese rider Jad Dana and 13-year-old After Eight enjoyed a milestone first five-star win in WEF’s 1.50m classic, beating speedy Irish showjumper Darragh Kenny, who finished second and third with Vancouver Dreams and Chic Chic respectively.

    “Even though my mare is very fast, the riders today had so much experience and they are incredibly talented,” said Jad, who trains with US Olympic team gold medallist Leslie Howard. “I truly thought I had no chance. I was happy just to be in the jump-off. This mare tried her heart out for me today.

    “She does everything because of her huge heart. I love her so much. I have no words. To win a five-star is absolutely a dream come true.”

    Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro

    Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro winning at WEF

    Irish success continued at WEF when Bertram Allen and Aiden McGrory’s Pacino Amiro triumphed in Thursday’s CSI5* Challenge Cup. He was up against countryman Darragh Kenny on Vlock Show Stables’ Chic Chic and US rider Schuyler Riley (Robin De Ponthual) in a three-way jump-off and, from second draw, posted the winning time of 36.94sec.

    “I’ve never seen a WEF Challenge here where only three were clear in the first round, so it was a much more tactical jump-off than normal,” said Bertram. “It was a huge advantage going after Darragh because I saw one or two places in his jump-off where I could get the better of him if I left the rails up.”

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