Daniel Bluman (ISR) experienced a pleasant case of déjà vu on Saturday night after winning the $425,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 9 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. He and his steady partner Ladriano Z won the same event in 2019 and lead the victory gallop once again during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ in front of a packed house at Wellington International.

The highly anticipated track from internationally renowned course designer Alan Wade (IRL) produced top sport from a stacked field. Bluman was last to punch a ticket to the jump-off after Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Karl Cook (USA) paved the way.

If Bluman felt the pressure as he returned for the short course, he didn’t show it while putting Ladriano Z’s massive stride to good use over the expansive track. “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 Bluman of the 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Lawito x Baloubet Du Rouet) he owns with Blue Star Investments and Over The Top Stables.

“He’s a really big horse so he’s naturally not the fastest one moving his feet, but you do cover a lot of ground, especially in a jump off like this where it had big galloping,” continued Bluman.

When Bluman pushed Ladriano Z through the timers, the clock showed they were six tenths of a second ahead in 43.24. Sweetnam and the promising James Kann Cruz, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) owned by Gizmo Partners, LLC settled for second after another strong showing in five-star competition at WEF.

After finishing third in the Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix two weeks previous, Sweetnam mentioned looking forward to another quality track from his fellow countryman Alan Wade. “It was very difficult in a different way; not dimensionally but especially the last line for a bigger strided horse was very difficult. He made a point to put the last jump in the corner where it’s normally not, and the horses thought they were a done. This was top sport with four great horses and riders in the second round, and no poles.”

Bluman echoed Sweetnam’s sentiment about Wellington attracting the best in the world during the winter months, saying, “This time of the year you have some of the greatest riders in the world here for the season so it’s very intense. You have to really plan, and I think part of the reason you see this podium here is because we know how to make a plan. These are big jumps, very technical, high competition and you have to treat it that way. If you know how to manage the season it’s a great tool for you, your clients, owners and your family.”

Also jumping double-clear on a much slighter but lightning-fast horse, Cook finished third for the home country riding Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Thunder Vd Zuuthoeve x Flipper D’elle) owned by Helen Signe Ostby.

“This jump-off really rewarded how fast you could cover ground more so than turning,” said Cook. “There were three turns, so it was basically about ground coverage and on a horse like her she flies with a bit more turn, whereas these guys’ horses are just faster across the ground. So, the goal was just to cover the ground as fast as I could but after watching I knew I had to go fast. After fence two, I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it.

“This class was really important for us because I haven’t shown her since December and chose to give her a few months off so she could rest and save her legs for later,” continued Cook. “It’s always a bit of a risk to hold your cards closer to the end because it puts all the pressure on those couple times you decide to show. So, I knew I put a lot of pressure on myself and the last two ‘Saturday Night Lights’ I fell off and stopped out so, we’re doing alright.”

Rounding out the jump-off field without a rail down, Nassar took fourth aboard Igor van de Wittemoere (Cooper Van De Heffinck X Orlando) owned by Evergate Stables.

Looking back on the evening, Bluman recapped, “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.”

As winners of the $425,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty CSI5* Grand Prix, Bluman and Ladriano Zwere presented with the Herman ‘Kappy’ Kaplan Perpetual Memorial Trophy. Bluman and Ladriano Z will next compete at FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha, Nebraska.

$425,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty CSI5* Grand Prix

1. Daniel Bluman (ISR) & Ladriano Z: 2008 Zangersheide gelding (Lawito x Baloubet Du Rouet) Owner: Blue Star Investments, Over The Top Stables & Daniel Bluman
2. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & James Kann Cruz: 2013 Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) Owner: Gizmo Partners, LLC
3. Karl Cook (USA) & Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet: 2010 Belgian Warmblood mare (Thunder Vd Zuuthoeve x Flipper D’elle) Owner: Helen Signe Ostby
4. Nayel Nassar (EGY) & Igor van de Wittemoere: 2008 Belgian Warmblood gelding (Cooper Van De Heffinck X Orlando) Owner: Evergate Stables
5. Eduardo Menezes (MEX) & H5 Elvaro: 2009 Dutch Warmblood stallion (Calvaro F.c. x Heartbreaker) Owner: H5 Sporthorses

Full results here.