29 January 2023
By Tom Collins
Corkman just one tenth of a second behind winner in $216,000 4* Grand Prix in Florida
Aga Khan Trophy hero Shane Sweetnam finished second in the $216,000 CSI4* NetJets Grand Prix at Wellington, Florida overnight.
Originally from Dunmanway in West Cork, 42 year old Sweetnam, on board Namaste Van Het Eyckeveld, put in a spectacular first round of jumping to join 13 other pairings, including Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, in the 1.55m jump-off.
With seven combinations left to jump, Sweetnam and his 10-year-old mount jumped into the lead in a time of 38.46 seconds.
That would prove tough to beat until Britain’s Ben Maher and Dallas Vegas Batilly pipped them by just over one tenth of a second to seal the victory in a time of 38.35 seconds.
America’s Kent Farrington joined Maher and Sweetnam – part of the Irish team who won the home Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse show in August – on the podium in third after he jumped clear in round two in 38.77 seconds.
Coyle, who had jumped clear quicker than the whole field in round one, finished eighth overall after the jump-off.
The Derryman was again quickest but had an unfortunate four faults, nonetheless securing a top 10 finish.
The result came off the back of another superb performance in Florida, as Wexford’s Bertram Allen and Emmylou won the Wellington Equestrian Realty CSI4* 1.45m for owners Ballywalter Stables and Noel Delahunty Connaught Bloodstock on Friday evening.
Olympian Allen was delighted with the result, saying: “I was very early to go in fourth, so I was just going to go and give it my best shot. I have a very competitive horse and she gave a massive effort. She’s just fantastic and I knew that if I rode well that I could have a chance today.”
Who is Shane Sweetnam
Shane began his Grand Prix career aged 16. In 2004, after qualifying in IT from the University of Limerick, he headed to Florida and got a job with US Olympic veteran Margie Engle and has been based in Florida since. He was eighth individually to help Ireland to team gold at the 2017 Europeans and competed in the 2018 World Equestrian Games where Ireland finished seventh. In 2021 he won the first five-star Grand Prix of the year at America’s prestigious Wellington Equestrian Festival. He is a firstcousin of Munster and Ireland rugby player Donnacha Ryan according to https://olympics.ie/athlete/shane-sweetnam/
He features at Sweet Oak Farm at 13202, 50th St, South Wellington, FL 33414, USA. “With an approach to training that is both exciting and refreshing. Shane guides all of his riders, from novices to advanced jumpers, to excel in the ring.”