In the first round of Sunday’s grand prix, the final line on course featured a triple combination [vertical, oxer, vertical] followed by five strides down to the IDA Developments oxer, the final jump on course. This combination of jumps proved to be one of the most difficult sections of the track designed by Catsy Cruz (MEX). A starting field of 45 combinations challenged the course, with 18 qualifying to return for the jump-off.
“I knew I just had to give it everything I had,” said the 26-year-old rider. “I didn’t watch Nayel’s round, but I was talking to a few people and they said it was very fast and my guy is naturally fast, so my plan was to just be as fast as I could be without doing anything crazy. It all came up great. Friday was the biggest class he’s [Castlefield Vegas] jumped so far, and he won that, so I was delighted. Today I was interested to see how he would go along with that. He jumped great, and I had a good feeling.”
Less than three-tenths of a second off the leader, Egypt’s Nayel Nassar rode Igor Van De Wittemoere owned by Evergate Stables, LLC, to a second-place finish. Nassar and the 13-year-old gelding by Cooper VD Heffinck x Orlando 96, also posted a double-clear round in 37.39 seconds. The pair has been together for about a year now so their success on Sunday comes as a very exciting step in the right direction.
“It has been a bit of a process trying to get him going the way I would like him to,” said the 30-year-old rider. “He has a ton of energy and so much blood, and sometimes he tends to rush the jumps a bit. We’ve been messing around with bridles and doing a lot of flatwork just to try to get him to switch a few gears, and I was so pleased with him today. He jumped the first round spectacularly and came back to jump the jump-off even better. I thought we had it won, but this guy [Bertram] is pretty darn fast. We are so happy with the result and just very pleased with how he’s coming along.”
Rounding out the top three it was Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Skara Glen’s Chancelloress, owned by Skara Glen Stables, leaving all the jumps in their cups in a time of 38.35 seconds. O’Shea and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Chacco Blue x Balou du Rouet had a successful week overall, after also finishing third in Friday’s qualifier.
“I thought it was a great course,” said O’Shea, who is ranked 40th in the world. “I was very happy with my mare. She was good the other day too, so I think we went as quick as we could. I’m very happy with her, and at least another Irishman won! Bertram’s horse is co-owned by a very good friend of mine, so it’s great to see them going so well.”
Allen, who sits 46th in the world rankings, echoed the praise of other international competitors of the quality of the turf, after racking up three wins to date with Castlefield Vegas on the grass Derby Field during the 2021 WEF.