Young Colombian rider Daniel Bluman jumped to an exciting victory in Saturday night’s $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* at Florida’s FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival.
More than 7000 fans filled the stands to see the best of the best from the winter circuit compete under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Bluman, 22, and his mount Sancha LS earned the top prize in a three-horse jump-off over Canada’s Ian Millar and Star Power and USA’s Lauren Hough and Quick Study.
Ireland’s Alan Wade designed the course for the grand prix and set a challenging track for the 45 qualified entries. Only three were able to jump the first round course entirely without fault to advance to the jump-off, and all three had single rails through the short course, making time the deciding factor.
An impressive cheering section exploded with applause as Bluman and Sancha LS completed the first perfect trip through round one’s course. The pair then returned first for the jump-off and had four faults, but when the following two riders also had rails, Bluman’s time of 48.97 seconds made him the victor.
Ian Millar was the second rider to clear the first round course without fault aboard Team Works’ Star Power. The duo returned for the jump-off and also had a rail on course, and their time of 49.30 seconds placed second.
Lauren Hough and Laura Mateo’s Quick Study were the final pair to put their name on the jump-off list and immediately followed Millar’s round over the short course. Hough took her time, attempting to have the only clear round, but met heartbreak as Quick Study dropped a rail at the last fence. Their slower time of 55.97 seconds finished in third.
Twenty-seven-year-old Lauren Tisbo (US) and her mount King Kolibri, owned by Tequestrian Farms LLC, showed their cool under pressure in front of the huge crowd in round one. The duo completed the first clear round over the course, but incurred a single time fault for exceeding the time allowed.
Eighteen-year-old Katie Dinan (US) also cleared the course, but finished with one time fault aboard Nougat Du Vallet, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC. Dinan was the faster of the two, completing the course in 88.56 seconds to earn the fourth place prize. Tisbo and King Kolibri’s time of 91.91 seconds placed fifth.
Class winner Daniel Bluman is based in Wellington and has been training with Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze for the past year. Prior to training with Lamaze, Bluman began his show jumping career in the United States under the tutelage of American rider Todd Minikus, and then trained with Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios. Bluman’s mount Sancha LS is a nine-year-old La Silla-bred mare by Chin Chin x Polydor, that the rider has owned since November 2010.
After the class, Bluman reflected on this monumental moment in his career. “This win means everything to me. I’m surprised I did it, but I’m not surprised my mare did it. I know she’s one of the best horses out there. It’s great that she has a win like this on her record. I already felt great before the jump off; it was great what I had already accomplished. Eric Lamaze, who has been training me, told me to just go for it and see what happens, so that was my plan.”
Bluman purchased Sancha LS at the end of her seven-year-old year in Monterrey, Mexico. He spoke about the mare’s progress and rise to success. “She is a very careful horse. I think everyone was surprised that she could be a grand prix horse. She wasn’t too scopey, but she tries super hard. It’s a pleasure to have her in my barn. I was grateful to go back to the jump-off. To have Ian and Lauren coming after me was nerve wracking. They had some cheap rails at the end, so I guess it was meant to be for me tonight.”
Course designer Alan Wade said there were a lot of questions on the course from start to finish. “It was a lot of jumps; maybe not as big as last week, but there were a lot of questions. It was very tense and exciting to watch. It was what show jumping is about – not the speed class, it was about jumping clear rounds first. It was a championship event, three clear rounds, a $500,000 class, so it shouldn’t be a speed class. I congratulate the victors. I’m sure some out there were disappointed, but I thought from the public point of view, if you had that sort of a class, you would have a packed house that was there to watch it. We didn’t know what was going to happen next.”
From here, Bluman will return to Colombia for some vacation time with his family. He will then go to Europe with Lamaze and Artisan Farms to show in Antwerp, La Baule, and Madrid, amongst other shows to prepare for the Olympic Games this summer. The Colombian team has two spots open, and Bluman hopes to receive one of them.
The $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge concluded on Saturday night after 12 weeks of jumper competition at the 2012 FTI WEF. Laura Kraut led the standings and earned a $50,000 cut of the bonus money for her success during the circuit. Kent Farrington finished in second place ($25,000), Eric Lamaze third ($15,000), and Ben Maher fourth ($10,000).