Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 16
Santiago Diaz was hardly the odds on favorite heading into today’s $50,000 Equestrian Sotheby’s Jumping Derby. After all, he’d never won a class of this caliber before, and his mount, Tizimin La Silla, is just 8 and consequently short on experience. But the pair still rode away with the win, getting the edge over Nick Dello Joio and Ganjana, with James North and The Man To See taking third.
Diaz, a Colombian who’s spending his second season at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, wasn’t entirely surprised. The 25-year-old professional is pinning his hopes to ride for the flag in senior competition on the gelding. Tizimin La Silla (Tlaloc La Silla—Sonora La Silla, Polydor) has done nothing but impress him since they paired up three years ago. His heritage doesn’t hurt either: he’s out of the same dam as Sancha La Silla, who partnered with Daniel Bluman to represent Colombia at the London Olympic Games.
“Last year he did a derby in Colombia, so even though I know he’s young for this, I knew he could do well,” said Diaz. “He’s really green, but since the season started I’ve wanted to aim him at an important class, so I really planned for this.”
Richard Jeffery set an identical track as last year on the derby field at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium, using the open water, double liverpool combination, hedge, grob, table bank and the hill-and-bank complex dubbed “Mount Wellington.” Some of the derby regulars elected to compete on Friday in a new addition to the calendar, the $84,000 Salamandar Resort and Spa Valentine’s Day Grand Prix, leaving the start list short at just 12. No one made it around the track fault-free, with problems coming all over the track in the faults-converted class.
While the course wasn’t overly huge, at 20 fences long it proved a good test of fitness and bravery. Hillary Simpson’s horse Cantus D dug in his heels rather than go down the steep bank, and after a few tries she elected take him the long way around. And two combinations, Jennifer Goddard and Lucky Lord 20 and Cassandra Herman and Whisper, faced elimination for going over the maximum time allowed. Alex Granato and Gangsta were eliminated, too, after going onto the bank before beginning the course.
“In these kinds of courses you don’t worry too much about the rail,” said North, who competed The Man To See in this class for the third year in a row. “You just have to go fast, super fast. Mine is a little slow, he’s a stallion and he dwells a little in the air. He didn’t seem winded, but about halfway through, I was winded.”
Some horses did start to tire toward the end of the track, which took almost three minutes to compete, but not Tizimin La Silla. He was eager to go the whole time, and Diaz’ connections were stationed at every corner of the field, whistling them on. To prepare for the class Diaz took her over to Charlie Jayne’s Our Day Farm to practice a few jumps on the derby field, but he knew Tizimin’s fitness was solid.
Dello Joio took over the lead eight horses in, despite logging two rails late in the course. He just started riding Ganjana for Laura de Gunzburg recently, and relied on that horse’s past derby experience to make up for their unconfirmed partnership.
“I was thrilled with her,” said Dello Joio. “To have two down, it’s hard to be unhappy. She was great, and jumped well and made my job a lot easier.”
Want more from WEF?
Kent Farrington and Blue Angel won two big classes on Thursday and Friday this week. Want to see how he did it? Kent go head-to-head against Cian O’Connor in the $84,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Grand Prix Rolex Match Up.
And don’t miss the unbelievable photos of Beezie Madden showing off some serious stickability.
If hunters are more your style, check out this gallery of the top professional horses from during the week, and catch up on Tori Colvin’s third consecutive win in the USHJA WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular as well.