WELLINGTON, Fla.-- Columbian born Daniel Bluman, riding Samantha and Melissa Wight's Esmee, won the $15,000 Turf Tour Grand Prix over 30 entries on Feb. 9, completing his round at midday with a double clear and a jump-off time of 37.824 seconds.
The elegant gray mare made easy work of course designer Eric Hasbrouck's questions, which included some interesting lines, a challenging triple combination, and a seemingly banal final first round oxer that plagued a number of riders.
"Esmee is a new mare for the Wights, and this was her first show in the USA," said Bluman, who nowrides for Isreal. "She came out a little rusty on Thursday but we decided to take her to the Turf Tour and she clearly enjoyed the experience. I am happy with her performance, and of course with winning the class, and she's going to be a nice horse for Samantha to ride and compete. We always bring a few horses each week to the Turf Tour to take advantage of showing in different arenas and on the grass footing. The horses seem to enjoy the atmosphere and a change of pace from schooling at home or in a typical show setting."
FIVE-TIME Olympian Ann Kursinski of Flemington, N.J., and Miriam G. McClure-Adam's Armado made good use of the Turf Tour's 1.30 Rising Star Classic on Wednesday and the Grand Prix on Friday, winning good ribbons in each event.
Kursinksi is using the Turf Tour's varying venues and exceptional footing to further her goal of building Armado towards the 1.45M and 1.50M classes.
Kursinski and Armado are no strangers to The Ridge's shows, having topped one of their Grand Prix classes in New Jersey.
"He's such a great jumper, very brave, and absolutely loves the grass," said Kursinski. "Its so nice to bring him to different places and have the option of showing on the turf. We jump at home on the grass occasionally but rarely have the chance to show on it. His stride is much bigger over the grass and he is more eager to the fences, so it's a great option and training experience as well as a nice way to get all the benefits of jumping the Grand Prix without any of the stress."
Ireland's Conor Swail and Rubens LS LA Silla slid into second later in the day with a very fast jump-off effort of 38.365 seconds, while his countryman Denis Lynch and Hortensia finished third with 38.921 seconds.
Lynch and the scopey Hortensia were the first double clear effort of the day, following a number of unfortunate single rails or time faults in the first round, and his exceptionally fast time, which was barely a second slower than Bluman's, held him in the top three rankings all day.
"Hortensia was just released from quarantine a few days ago, and this is her first week out this season," said Lynch, who rode for Ireland in the 2008 Olympics and in November of 2017 topped $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington CSI4*-W. "Coming from Europe, she and my other ride today, Retro, are both 9-year-olds and show just incredible potential. I took over the ride on Hortensia this summer, and she's already won a Grand Prix in Europe. She's naturally very fast and competitive and likes to really dig in and give it her all. I think all horses prefer working in the wide open grass fields, its more natural for them and I think you get more of a jump out of the horses on the grass."
AFTER THE day's events, Fiday Night Lights had one of the highest attendances yet for the newly introduced series, both in terms of the number of riders and the crowd of spectators gathered to watch at the Polo Bar and Grill.
To begin the night, the Low 1.0m Jumper welcomed open and child/adult riders, and for the second week in a row, polo player turned show jumper Kerstie Allen, of Melbourne, Australia, topped the open section with her German bred NLF Felix das Pferd.
Allen, who is also a champion rodeo barrel racer and roper, has made an amazing transition to jumping, winning the first two events she rode in.
The 1.10M Jumper went to Nicole Rodriguez and Chably, while the night's biggest class, the $1,500 M&S/NAL/WIHS Child/Adult Jumper Classic was won by Lisa Butzer on Burlesque.
Butzer, who was riding for trainer Evan Coluccio of Allentown, N.J., said that although Burlesque is a successful show hunter, having won an international derby, her transition to the jumper world has been a smooth one.
"She's a 9-year-old who I've taken out a few times in the jumpers, including winning the 1.20M two weeks ago here at The Ridge [Turf Tour]," said Butzer. "Evan let me ride her today in the Classic, and she made a great effort tonight. It's 100 percent a different experience riding under the lights; the horses react differently and feed off the atmosphere, so its great practice for bigger things. I also really like having the restaurant and patio right next to the ring so friends and family can watch, and you can relax and have something to eat before or after."
As just about the only option for Child/Adult and Open riders at the 1.0M-1.10M level to experience the excitement of showing under the lights here in Wellington, Friday Night Lights promises to become a popular staple on the Turf Tour.