Wellington, Fla.—March 5
Shane Sweetnam was on an unstoppable roll this week at the Winter Equestrian Festival. After winning the $35,000 Ruby Et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 earlier in the week, Sweetnam and his Irish lads pulled together for victory in the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup on Friday night.
To complete the hat trick of wins, on Sunday Sweetnam tacked up his winning Nations Cup mount Chaqui Z and ran away with the victory in the $216,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO**** Grand Prix.
“Brilliant—honestly, this is a dream week for me,” Sweetnam said. “Any week of WEF, if you can win the WEF and the grand prix, it can make your whole WEF. So for us to win the WEF, the Nations’ Cup and then the grand prix, it’s amazing.”
A field of 45 horses contested the class against Sweetnam, and he wasn’t betting on himself and Chaqui Z to pull off the win.
“The way the class went, it was a fantastic first round, but then there were 17 in the jump-off. I was thinking that I had no hope,” Sweetnam said with a grin. “He’s very good at first turns, which he proved, but he’s not maybe the fastest. Kent [Farrington] was super-fast, and if Kent got away with that then it’s all over.”
The jump-off field was unusually large, and Farrington was first up in the order. He laid down a blistering time a full second faster than Sweetnam’s but got an awkward distance to the final oxer and pulled the top rails down.
“It worked out really well for me. I was quick, and [Chaqui Z] did the turns super,” Sweetnam said. “Lucky enough I lasted.”
Ken Krome designed the courses at the Winter Equestrian Festival all week, and Sweetnam said he certainly wasn’t going to start complaining about them given his banner week.
“Friday night [in the Nations Cup] he only had three double clears, which was a great course,” Sweetnam said. “Today that probably more clears than you would want, and the same with last night [in the 1.50 classic], but then we had a very good jump-off. That’s the way the sport seems to be going. It makes it more exciting and makes people want to come watch, it just gets faster and faster.”
Sweetnam outran his Irish team mate Conor Swail by just .06 seconds, and Swail is starting to think he has a bit of a bridesmaid curse.
“I actually have been second now I think four times by 0.20 or less,” Swail said shaking his head with a chuckle. “It was 0.06 today, so at least I’m getting closer. Certainly, when I look back and I was second in the jump-off out of 17, and my horse is just learning how to jump at this level, I I’m delighted. I’m chuffed with him.”
The large jump-off made third place finisher Ali Wolff’s job particularly difficult as she went fairly early in the order. She took over the lead with Casall after her round but the two Irishmen following her outpaced her.
“Going early on it’s a little hard because you knew I had about 12 other people behind me, including those two,” Wolf said. “But you see Kent go and he made an error and was a little rushed. I just have to go in knowing that I have to go my speed. If I try to push a little bit faster than that then things might go awry. Luckily everything kind of came up.”
Wolff has been bringing Casall along for the past five years, and they also jumped on the U.S. team that took second place in the Nations Cup on Friday night.
“I bought him as a sales horse to maybe do the junior/amateurs trying to break into the sales business,” Wolff said. “He ended up just jumping higher and higher. Then we were like, ‘OK, we’re going to hold on for another year.’ And then another year. Made a team? Hold on for another year!
“He’s just been phenomenal for me and my career,” Wolff continued.