Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 10
For the second time in as many weeks Daniel Bluman stood atop the podium at the Winter Equestrian Festival as the Israeli national anthem played over the loudspeakers to honor him, the winning rider of $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI***** Grand Prix. Bluman grew up in Colombia and represented that country in two Olympic Games, but in 2017 he switched flags to ride for Israel, where he holds dual citizenship.
Bluman won the four-star grand prix last week with a different horse, Sancha LS, and on five-star night we learned he was just getting started as he piloted Ladriano Z to the faster of the two double-clear rounds. Bluman teared up as the final chords of the anthem played and the blue star of David was hoisted to the top of the pole over the ring.
“For me to change nationalities was a big thing,” Bluman, 27, said. “I’m a very proud Colombian as well, but I’ve been blessed to have been able to listen to the Israeli anthem more in the last year since I changed than ever before, so I was just reflecting on that and being thankful and just enjoying the moment.”
The grand prix played out in a slightly unusual way for a big five-star class—of the 40 horses that attempted the first-round track, only Bluman and Swiss rider Beat Mändli on Dsarie jumped clear over the fences and on the clock. Behind them were two riders with a single time fault (third-placed Cian O’Connor and Clenur and fourth-placed Peter Lutz Robin De Ponthual), and seasoned pairs like McLain Ward and HH Azur and Kent Farrington and Gazelle picked up uncharacteristic rails that dropped them down the placings.
“Actually at the beginning I thought the course was very nice, actually maybe too nice,” Bluman said. “I was thinking in my head that there was going to be a fast jump-off, and that was going to be the end of my chances of winning. So the class unfolded, and I was surprised to see that the rails were falling everywhere. It was a fantastic job from the course designer. Nobody got hurt; there were rails all over the place.”
Bluman had the good fortune to go last in the class so he got to watch Mändli’s jump off, and he picked up some advice from the world’s No. 1-ranked rider on his way into the ring.
“Kent Farrington was in the warm-up watching [Mändli] with me and he said ‘Just do the same thing he did and pick a place where you think you can be faster,’ ” Bluman said. “I thought the only place he had left for me, a spot to be faster and yet not take too much risk, was from [Fence 1] to 2, so I did one stride less.”
The win means a lot to Bluman for many different reasons, not the least of which that he now finds himself standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest riders in the sport.
“These two riders, the one that I have on my right and the one that I have on my left, have been idols since I was growing up,” Bluman said of O’Connor and Mändli. “Every chance that I have to beat them is something that I treasure, because you never know when the next time is going to be.”
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