It was a home sweet home win for Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam on Saturday.
For more than a decade, the Irish import has held a summer residence in Lexington (USA), directly adjacent to the Kentucky Horse Park. For even longer, he’s chased a win in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ series.
Saturday evening, in the Alltech Arena, Sweetnam used home-field advantage to make good on on that bid, logging his first World Cup victory with the second leg of the North American League at the CSI4*-W National Horse Show Lexington.
Eleven combinations found a clear path around Alan Wade’s first round 1.60m course. Fourth to return, Sweetnam left out a pair of strides and risked a bold turn into the double combination. James Kann Cruz slipped in front of the a element, but still cleared the fence, ultimately stopping the clock in 33.41 seconds.
“We slipped a little bit going into the double, and [James Kann Cruz] had to show how amazing he was. That wasn’t planned, but it just shows how talented he is,” said Sweetnam.
“I felt that there were a lot of fast riders, good riders behind me. Honestly, when I came out of the ring, I was thinking I still might not have done enough. I definitely wasn’t sure I had the win, but I really did as much as I could in the ring.”
Defending champion Daniel Bluman (ISR) took second on Gemma W in 34.14s. Devin Ryan (USA) and Eddie Blue finished third in 34.22s.
At just 10-years old James Kann Cruz already has a phenomenal record. The grey gelding was part of Ireland’s silver medal-winning effort at the 2023 European Championships (ITA) and, in just two seasons under Sweetnam’s saddle, has accrued 21 podium finishes and €983,408 in career earnings (Jumpr App).
Better still, the world no. 12 ranked rider says the best is yet to come.
“Practice makes perfect. I’d say if you watch my rounds now compared to what they were this time last year, the jump-offs are a lot faster,” said Sweetnam of his spectacularly scopey partner.
“Yes, he does spend a lot of time in the air, but obviously, that’s a help. He’s a very smart horse. The more he does it, the smarter he gets…He’s looking for the next jump, which he hadn’t really this time last year. It’s still a work in progress.
“I still think there’s more room there for us to go to another level,” he added.
Ryan moves to the top of the NAL standings with 30 points after placing on the podium in Washington, DC. Sweetnam slots into second with 28 points. Alise Oken (USA) sits third with 25 points.
The NAL continues in Toronto (CAN) on 11 November 2023.