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Sep 4, 2017 7:53 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Daniel Bluman Edges Ward And Goutal In Jump-Off To Win Hampton Classic Grand Prix

Daniel Bluman was the winner of the Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic on Sunday afternoon,  DANA SHAW
Sep 5, 2017 9:32 AM

For the past few weeks, Daniel Bluman has taken up residence at the cottage on McLain Ward’s property in Brewster, New York.

The way things have been going for him lately, he may never leave.

The 27-year-old Grand Prix rider—who was born in Colombia and has represented that country internationally, including in two Olympic Games, but will compete for Israel starting this year—said he has been soaking up advice and pointers, as well as a little bit of luck, from the four-time Olympian and six-time Hampton Classic Grand Prix winner Ward, one of the best American riders in history.

It paid off this week at the Hampton Classic, as Bluman won his third FEI class of the week on Sunday afternoon, out-dueling both Ward and American rider Brianne Goutal in a three-horse jump-off to claim the show’s biggest prize, the $300,000 Grand Prix.

“That bed where he used to sleep when he won everything he’s won? It definitely has given me some superpowers that I’ve been able to enjoy this week,” Bluman said during the press conference after his victory, seated alongside Ward, Goutal and Irish rider Richie Moloney, who won the week’s Longines Rider Challenge for the fifth time in six years. “Not only that but he’s also given me some of his knowledge, which he’s been very kind to share with me. It paid off great.”

Goutal and her mount, Nice de Prissy, a 17-year-old Selle Francais stallion, were the first on course in the eight-fence jump-off, choosing a more careful pace but ultimately finishing with one rail down for four faults.

Ward was up next and, knowing that a hot Bluman was still waiting at the in-gate, he pressed his 10-year-old warmblood mare, HH Callas, on an aggressive gallop, which seemed to pay dividends initially. Ward then elected to leave out a stride on a tight turn to the second-to-last fence, which proved to be costly, as the pair had a rail down at both that fence and the final one, finishing with the fastest time of 44 seconds but opening the door for Bluman.

With some pressure off, Bluman and his horse, 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding Ladriano Z, were clear in 46.09 seconds to win. Bluman removed his helmet and pumped his fist as he galloped around the field, soaking in the applause from the crowd.

Bluman, Ward and Goutal were the only riders from the field of 31 who left all the rails up with no time faults on the course set by Irish designer Alan Wade. Fence 11, the Jaguar vertical, came down a total of 10 times, as did the jump after it, a blue-and-white oxer.

Goutal explained that the slight uphill approach to the vertical, due to a slight grade in the field, added some difficulty, and the six strides between the two fences were a bit tighter than perhaps most of the riders anticipated.

In the jump-off, the rider who goes last always has the advantage, and that was true for Bluman on Sunday. His hot performance all week long only added pressure on Goutal and Ward.

“With Daniel coming behind me, and with the week he’s been having, I knew he wasn’t going to leave anything,” Ward said. “If I could do it again, I would have done one more stride [to the second-to-last fence]. It was a little bit at the end of the mare’s stride, and that is not the best way to be for her.

“It’s disappointing,” he added, “but that’s sport, and I am not a guy who is going to leave it on the table. I needed to put his back against the wall, and it blew up a little bit on me today—but a lot of days it works out as well. He is a great rider, a great competitor. He’s working very hard producing this horse.”

Ward added that he tried to buy Ladriano last year, recognizing the horse’s talent, but owner Brian Schwitzer of Over the Top Farm, which owns Ladriano, wanted to keep him for Bluman.

Initially, Bluman said he thought the horse was too big for him, but he gave his cousin, Ilan Bluman, credit for developing the horse before handing him over to Bluman for big competitions. Ilan Bluman was on hand to see his hard work come to fruition on Sunday, as were other members of Bluman’s family, including his brother and his mother, Orly, who was celebrating her birthday.

Another celebration took place before the start of the Grand Prix, as the Classic hosted a retirement ceremony for Goutal’s longtime mount, Onira. The 20-year-old gelding proved that he is still at the top of his game when he finished second in a big class in the Grand Prix ring earlier in the week.

Goutal said she wanted to retire him while he was still at the top of his game, although she admitted doing so was “bittersweet.” Onira carried Goutal to some of the biggest wins of her career and was her primary mount as she became one of the most successful junior riders in the country’s history.

Goutal rode Onira in the Grand Prix several times, a class where she has finished as the runner-up three times now. “I swore I wouldn’t be second again, but here I am,” she said.

Goutal was happy to take home the red ribbon, however, especially considering it was her horse’s first big competition after a two-year layoff due to arthritis in his fetlocks, an injury that required homeopathic treatments in France.

All three riders said they were happy with the effort of their horses, in a tough class and on a stage that can often unsettle some of the best in the world. The expansive grass surface, a packed grandstand, fences made with unfamiliar natural elements, and the close proximity of gawking spectators, talking loudly and clinking glasses, wearing distracting hats while just an arm’s reach away from several jumps on course, have proved to be the undoing of many a horse and rider.

Nothing, it seemed, was able to stop Bluman and Ladriano, a horse with ability equal to his rider.

“He’s scopey, he’s careful, he’s fast, he’s smart,” Bluman said. “He’s everything you want in a horse.”

With such a game partner, it’s a safe bet that Bluman’s win streak isn’t over. And Ward doesn’t anticipate his friend and newfound rival will change any of the strategy that got him there anytime soon—including his lucky bed.

“He’s moved in,” Ward said. “And I don’t think I’m going to get him out.”

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