The highlight class of the seventh week of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) was the $401,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI5*, and Bertram Allen (IRL) was brilliant with Pacino Amiro, owned by Aiden McGrory, for victory on Saturday, February 27.
Riding over a challenging course set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) and Andy Christiansen (ECU) that featured the open water, a triple combination, and two double combinations, five riders found the path to a clear round and advanced to the jump-off out of 40 starting entries.
The first to return for the jump-off were Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) and VDL Cartello, owned by Heathman Farm, LLC. They had one rail down to finish in fifth place in 38.47 seconds. Immediately following, Allen and Pacino Amiro sped through the course in 35.32 seconds, a time that couldn’t be caught by the remaining three competitors.
“There was no real standard set before I went in because Lorcan obviously had a fence down,” said Allen, “and there were only three coming after me, but they were obviously three very, very good ones on fast horses. I know my guy is fast, and with only five in it, the worst case I was fifth. I was going to give it a good shot, and thankfully it came off.”
Mario Deslauriers (CAN) and Bardolina 2, a 12-year-old Holsteiner mare by Clarimo x Landos owned by Wishing Well Farm LLC, were clear and off the pace in 37.62 seconds for third place.
“When I saw Bertram go, I was walking next in the ring and I said, ‘That’s going to be hard to catch for me,’” said Deslauriers. “My horse has a big stride, but she is not the fastest horse, and she can sometimes be a little finicky to ride so I thought I went as fast as I could. I was trying to leave all the jumps up and see where I end up, but I was very pleased. She jumped great tonight.”
In a class stacked with Irishmen, it was Daniel Coyle and Ariel Grange’s Legacy, an 11-year-old Zangersheide mare by Chippendale Z x Bon Ami, who came closest to Allen’s leading time. They were clear in 37.11 seconds to finish in second place.
“Anything Bertram does in the jump-off is usually hard to follow or catch,” said Coyle. “I knew before I went in that was going to be a challenge so I just stuck to my own plan and if it was good enough, great, and if not, there will be lots more. It’s Legacy’s first class under the lights this year, and I always have huge, huge expectations of her.”
Aiming for his third five-star class win of the week, Daniel Deusser (GER) was the final competitor in the jump-off. Riding Stephex Stables’ Killer Queen VDM (who won the four-star grand prix in WEF 4), Deusser made a strong effort, but a downed rail in 35.62 seconds put them just off the podium in fourth place.
Allen and Pacino Amiro, who led the victory gallop during WEF 2 in the Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup, were riding in only their second five-star grand prix under the lights. It was an impressive finish for the nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Pacino x NC Amiro, who was also in the jump-off during the WEF 5 five-star grand prix.
“The last grand prix I suppose I was stepping into the unknown a little bit with him,” admitted Allen. “He had never jumped a five star or been under the lights, and he handled it very well. Tonight, I was a bit more confident that I knew that he could do it, so I was just hoping that he was going to be on form. He was even better again tonight.”
Allen has been riding Pacino Amiro since he was seven years old and developed him as a young horse. “He’s a little bit of a special character, and I know him very, very well,” he described. “Since week one he’s gotten better and better, and he is a lovely horse who wants to try his best all the time and learn.”
With many competitions cancelled in Europe this winter, Allen was thankful to be able to compete in Wellington once again.
“It’s brilliant,” he said. “I was here for a bit of the season [in 2020] and that got cut short, and then it was very start and stop and a lot of the time with no shows. To be here consistently jumping at a very high level, we are all very lucky and make the most of it.”
The final results here