IRISH riders have finished on a high at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, with Co Clare’s David Blake taking victory in the curtain-closing $50,000 Wanderers Club two-star 1m45 Grand Prix. Riding the Pine Hollow Farm-owned Dy Zento, Blake finished just over a second ahead of fellow Irishman Kevin Mealiff in second with Tupac Van De Vrombautshoeve.
Fifteen of the 44 starters made it through to the jump-off representing seven different nations. Kevin Mealiff (IRL) and Tupac Van De Vrombautshoeve Z, owned by Oakmont Stables, LLC, took the early lead when clear in 44.05 seconds. Mealiff and the 11-year-old gelding would hold the lead through the next few pairs until Blake and Dy Zento returned.
Blake and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Zento x Goodtimes zipped around the track, opening up their stride for a long gallop down to the final fence. The pair managed to leave all the jumps in their cups in an impressive time of 42.93 – a time that would hold on for top spot at the finish.
“I’ve taken it slow with him the last couple of years,” said Blake of the gelding he has been riding for four years. “We haven’t done a whole lot with him, but we built him up for the early circuit, and it all came together today, so it was worth the wait.
“He has a lot of blood,” continued Blake. “The jump-off really suited him today because he’s a big horse, so it really suited his stride and the run down to the last jump, I feel like I was quicker than anyone else there. For a big horse, he’s got a lot of blood and he’s very athletic, so it makes it easier in the ring.
“It was really nice to get the win today and end the winter on a high note. It was a really exciting finish and feels very rewarding.
“We’re going to stay in Wellington to do the two three-star shows on the grass Derby Field during the ESP Spring Series before we head up north. I’m really looking forward to jumping on the grass and giving the horses a little bit of something different here.”
On Friday in Florida, Cork’s Shane Sweetnam and Indra Van De Oude Heihoef captured the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic Series Final, with Offaly’s Darragh Kenny crowned overall series winner.