Israel’s Daniel Bluman made careful plans for Gemma W this season, plans that paid off on Thursday with a victory in the $146,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup – Round 12, a qualifier for the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix on Saturday. The Rolex-sponsored finale of the 13-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) runs through April 2.

Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) set the testing five-star track where 15 pairs jumped clear and represented 10 nations over the tie-breaking short course. Bluman and Gemma W, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Luidam x Unaniem) were uncatchable in 36.5 seconds, nearly two full second faster than the nearest challenger.

Gemma W, owned by Blue Star Investments and Over The Top Stables, picked up a top-five finish in her only other appearance at WEF this season – a CSI4* grand prix during Week 8. Since then, Bluman has had her fully focused on making a big impact during WEF 12.

“Gemma had a very successful 2022 and I’ve been taking it easy with her and not jumping a bunch; the plan was to have her fit and ready for this week to come and attack this grand prix qualifier,” said the 33-year-old two-time Olympian. “She was fresh, and the plan was to do the leave outs everywhere and use her ground speed to put in a competitive time with enough pressure on the couple riders after me.”

Bluman is no stranger to success during Rolex Week at WEF after finishing second in the Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix in 2022 on Ladriano Z and 2019 with Gemma W.

“The Rolex Grand Prix in Wellington has been my favorite class,” he said. “I haven’t decided the plan for Saturday yet, but I can say for sure that it will be a very exciting class with great horse-and-rider combinations and a packed house with great atmosphere here in Wellington.

“Gemma feels in top form; she feels fresh and ready to compete,” continued Bluman. “Her biggest talent is her mind; she has the mind of a champion. She really knows her job and if you look at her record, she’s jumped so many clear rounds throughout her career and that’s phenomenal.”

Brazilian Olympic champion Rodrigo Pessoa finished as runner-up in 38 seconds flat aboard the Artemis Equestrian Farm-owned Major Tom (Vagabond de la Pomme x Heartbreaker), while Bliss Heers (USA) and Antidote de Mars (Diamant de Semilly x Jarnac) took third in 38.46 seconds for owner Bridgeside Farms. Top Canadian of five in the class was Tiffany Foster, who placed 5th riding Hamilton.

CSI5* competition continues on Friday with the Bainbridge Companies 1.45m before the Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix takes center stage under the shine of ‘Saturday Night Lights’ in the International Arena on April 1 at 7:30pm. Watch live on ESPN3 beginning at 6:30pm.

Results here.