Israel’s Daniel Bluman won the $85,000 GroupBy Big Ben Challenge on Thursday night, November 8, at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show, held as part of the 96th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON.
Twenty-two of the world’s top show jumping athletes entered the Coca-Cola Coliseum in the hopes of scoring victory in the $85,000 GroupBy Big Ben Challenge, a sentimental favourite at the Royal Horse Show named for Ian Millar’s former mount. Eleven mastered the track set by 2018 World Championship course designer, Alan Wade of Ireland, to advance to the jump-off.
In the tie-breaker, Bluman saved the best for last, cruising to a clear round in a time of 32.34 seconds riding Ladriano Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding owned by Alexa Schwitzer and Blue Star Investments. As the final challenger, Bluman knew the victory was his, and celebrated along with the packed house. Devin Ryan, who recently helped the United States become World Champions, rode his top mount, Eddie Blue, to a clear round in a time of 32.53 seconds to finish runner-up.
“I had the advantage of going last,” said Bluman, who represented the Israeli Show Jumping Team in its first World Championship appearance in September. “Devin’s horse is a very fast horse. It has pretty much the same weapons that mine has to win a class like this one. I won by a fraction of a second. I got lucky also. I could have been second place, but it was meant to be for me tonight.”
At 28 years of age, Bluman has been competing at the Royal Horse Show for several years and appreciated the crowd’s support as he went for the win.
“My first year competing here was 2011; Eric Lamaze got me an invitation,” said Bluman. “I’ve come almost every year since then. I really, really love it. It’s a fantastic city, and it’s a fantastic crowd. When you jump in a place that has a crowd and has an atmosphere, the whole energy changes and your desire to win also changes. We go to a lot of competitions, but when you’re at a show like this, every class you compete in, you want to perform. Forget about the prize money, forget about the world ranking points, forget about anything else; you just want to be the best that you can be for the crowd. That’s what makes it fun!”
Catherine Tyree of the United States took third place with a clear round in a time of 33.32 seconds riding Bokai while Australia’s Rowan Willis and Blue Movie were fourth after crossing the timers in 34.52 seconds. Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON, set the pace as the first to go in the jump-off, delivering a fantastic clear in 35.26 seconds aboard Count Me In, owned by Sandy Lupton, to round out the top five.
$85,000 Groupby Big Ben Challenge
1. Daniel Bluman/Israel/Ladriano Z/ 0:0/32.34
2. Devin Ryan/Long Valley, NJ/Eddie Blue/ 0:0/32.53
3. Catherine Tyree/Chicago, IL/Bokai/ 0:0/33.32
4. Rowan Willis/Australia/Blue Movie/0:0/34.52
5. Beth Underhill/Schomberg, ON/Count Me In/ 0:0/35.26
6. Nicole Walker/Aurora, ON/Excellent B/0:0/35.46
7. Sharn Wordley/New Zealand/Barnetta/0:0/35.89
8. Ali Ramsay/Victoria, BC/Hermelien vd Hooghoeve/0:4/34.40
9. Conor Swail/Ireland/Rubens LS La Silla/0:12/35.33
10. Amanda Derbyshire/Great Britain/Cornwall BH/0:16/54.12
11. Amy Millar/Perth, ON/Heros/0:19/49.41
12. Molly Ashe Cawley/Wellington, FL/D’Arnita/0:4/61.71