Closing out the 2023 calendar year with its biggest event of the season, the Lugano Diamonds Split Rock Jumping Tour (SRJT) once again welcomed athletes and spectators to Fort Worth, Texas, for the third year of the Split Rock Fort Worth CSI4*-W. The Irish anthem would prevail on Thursday evening as Shane Sweetnam topped the $80,000 Lugano Diamonds 1.50m Welcome CSI4*-W with his own and Voquest LLC’s RR Combella (Cornet du Lys x Indoctro). The green, white, and orange of the Irish flag remains a familiar sight in the Will Rogers Coliseum after Irish wins in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth by Conor Swail in 2021 and Daniel Coyle in 2022, as well as a win for Ireland in the opening FEI event of 2023 on Wednesday by Darragh Kenny.

Course designer Anderson Lima (BRA) challenged athletes representing eight nations across 15 jumping efforts featuring both double (vertical-oxer) and triple (oxer-vertical-vertical) combinations positioned along the railing against the crowd heading towards the ingate. Many pairs would fall victim to jumping faults in the triple combination, heading home to the final oxer on course. Ultimately, eight combinations emerged fault-free in round one, with seven electing to return for the jump-off.

Andrew Bourns (IRL) aboard his own and QBS Equestrian LLC’s Sea Topblue (Chacco-Blue x Lux Z) set the pace in the jump-off as the pathfinders of round one with a solid double-clear crossing the timers in 35.15 seconds. However, Bourns’ time quickly proved beatable as Sweetnam entered two rounds later, navigating the tight turns and rollbacks with ease to clock in a quick finish of 33.81 seconds. Electing to move up in the order, 19-year-old Skylar Wireman (USA) and her own Tornado (Diarado x Chacco-Blue) would follow Sweetnam with an impressive finish of 34.59 seconds that would slot them into second place and nudge Bourns into third.

With one FEI Jumping World Cup™ win already under his belt for the season on James Kann Cruz at the National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky, Sweetnam opted to utilize his younger mount, 9-year-old RR Combella, in Fort Worth: “This string is building for next year and you have to do that with horses…I’m lucky to have a good core [group] and then to have these young ones coming along and I think they’ll do good things next year. My mare is young so this is great experience for her. I’m not putting too much pressure on her, but she jumped great tonight so we will see what she does Saturday,” Sweetnam concluded.

FEI competition will continue into the weekend for the feature event, the $250,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth CSI4*-W, presented by Lugano Diamonds, on Saturday, December 16.