Sameh El Dahan winning the CP ‘International’ (Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk)
After some light mid-morning rain, the Calgary skies cleared and 38 of the world’s most talented horse and rider partnerships accepted Venezuelan course designer Leopoldo Palacios’s challenge to jump his huge 1.70m course in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.
Third in the first round’s starting order, Germany’s Andre Thieme and his 10-year-old bay gelding, Aretino 13 produced a faultless display in a time of 88.84 s. However, not one of the next 30 riders to follow were able to produce a clear round, which was testament to the immensity of the contest the field was up against. It was Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan who broke the drought, piloting Suma’s Zorro, his 14-year-old mare, to the second clear round of the competition. Palacios’s course continued to be ruthless, claiming the scalps of some big-name horse and rider pairings, and just five further clear rounds were recorded.
The second round proved too tough for 10 of the 12 combinations that progressed from round one, and in the end, it was just The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan, who produced double clears, and in doing so set up a nail-biting jump-off. Van der Vleuten was first to go, going clear and setting a quick time of 42.98 s. El Dahan confidently entered the tense International Ring and breezed the course, going clear and triumphing over the Dutchman in a time of 42.21 s, thereby being crowned the new live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
So Sameh, what does winning a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major mean to you?
I’m delighted and absolutely over the moon. When I looked up at the big screen, because I wasn’t sure of the time, and I saw first place, it was a very difficult feeling to explain. To be a winner of one of the four prestigious Grands Prix, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is something I think every rider in the world dreams of.
Tell us a little bit about Suma’s Zorro.
Suma’s Zorro was bought as a foal by Joanne Sloan Allen and Sycamore Stables. When she was brought to the yard she jumped a five-bar gate when she was just six months old, so they knew they had a jumper on their hands. Joanne did an amazing job building her up until she was about seven years old, and then I also started riding her. Today Joanne does most of the riding, and I only jump her, so she’s done a great job.
09 September 2018, Spruce Meadows, Canada – The CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex has been won by Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Second place went to Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) riding Verdi TN and Beezie Madden (USA) riding Coach came in third.
An overcast day with cooler temperatures than the preceding week welcomed over 71,000 fans to the hallowed Spruce Meadows venue for the third equestrian Major of the year. Widely regarded as one of the toughest Grands Prix on the show jumping calendar, course designer Leopoldo Palacios did not disappoint and built it to capacity, to test the world’s best on this famous stage. Towering fences, tough combinations and technically exacting lines were created for the 42nd edition of this Grand Prix.
Prior to the start of the class, Palacios affirmed, “The course is challenging and tough – it’s for the biggest prize in the world. I’ve built two Olympics and [the course for] this class is tougher than the finals there.”
With the CP ‘International’ defending champion, Philipp Weishaupt (GER), the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Marcus Ehning (GER) and Rolex Testimonees Eric Lamaze, Kent Farrington and Steve Guerdat (world number five, eight, and nine, respectively), the competition was set to be an exhilarating one. All eyes would be focused on Ehning to see if he could continue his Rolex Grand Slam journey.
From the very start of this two-round class (and a jump-off if scores permit), the course lived up to expectations. With one clear from the first 20 riders, the crowd was witness to a multitude of falling poles and time faults, as Palacios tested the horse and rider combinations to their very limit.
Last year’s winner, Weishaupt, was unable to repeat his 2017 performance with two rails down, taking him out of contention and halting further progress in the class. Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat (SUI) displayed courage, determination and precision as he expertly guided Hannah over the 17 jumping efforts, confirming his place in the second round. Joining Guerdat was Canada’s much-loved Eric Lamaze aboard the incomparable Fine Lady 5, who once again highlighted why he is a force to be reckoned with in the sport of show jumping.
Former world number one and Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington (USA), chose to retire his mount Creedance after an uncharacteristic 12 faults. Similarly, it was not to be for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Ehning, as he retired Cornado NRW. After a dramatic first round there were seven clears, and a total of 12 riders progressing through to the second stage of this enthralling competition.
The morning clouds cleared and sun welcomed the start of the second round. A revised course of 15 jumping efforts was presented to the riders, with an imposing triple on the final line, to be completed within the time allowed of 67 seconds. Nicola Philippaerts (BEL), who picked up four faults in the first round, led the way and set the bar high, with a faultless round.
Maikel van der Vleuten riding Verdi TN produced the first double clear of the day, putting even more pressure on the remaining first round clear riders. Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat was unable to contend with van der Vleuten and left the International Ring with nine faults. Sameh El Dahan also rose to the occasion, ensuring the enthralled crowds would be treated to a jump-off.
Lamaze rode out to a stampede of applause, as the patriotic home crowd willed for another clear. Fans rode every stride and every fence with the famous pairing; however, Fine Lady 5 was unable to leave the last two jumping efforts standing.
Two riders awaited their chance to enter the International Ring for the third and final time to tackle the jump-off. First to go was van der Vleuten, who impressively navigated the imposing arena leaving all the fences standing and crossing the finish line in a time of 42.98 seconds. The closing rider of the day, El Dahan, kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as he cut marginally tighter corners and sped around the course, jumping the last fence and crossing the finish line in a time of 42.21 seconds, beating van der Vleuten in the narrowest of margins and being crowned the new live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Speaking after his win, El Dahan said, “This is one of the biggest achievements of my career. The feeling is indescribable. I need a few days to make sure everything sinks in and believe that it actually happened. Going forward, the four Majors which make up the Rolex Grand Slam will be at the top of my list to compete at.”
The next leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping continues in December at CHI Geneva and the show jumping world will be focused on El Dahan to see if he can continue his journey.
Sameh el Dahan and WKD Diva. Photos by Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Chris Surbey and Arezzo Top ATCO Six Bar
Calgary, AB – Friday night’s Mercedes-Benz Evening of the Horse at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament CSIO5* featured an exciting line-up of international show jumping competition capped off by live music and a dazzling display of fireworks.
It was a packed house to watch many of the world’s best horses and riders compete in the evening’s events, which included the Friends of the Meadows Cup 1.60m with a win for Egypt’s Sameh el Dahan and WKD Diva, as well as the always-exciting ATCO Six Bar competition with a victory for hometown favorite Chris Surbey (CAN) riding Arezzo.
The ‘Masters’ Tournament runs September 7-11, 2016, featuring the best horses and riders in the world competing at Spruce Meadows. Highlights include the BMO Nations’ Cup on Saturday, with teams from around the world competing for top honors; and Sunday’s CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, with a staggering $2 million in prize money up for grabs in this year’s competition.
Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios set a challenging track for the 30 starters in Friday’s Friends of the Meadows 1.60m competition. Only five entries were able to clear the first round course without fault to advance to the jump-off, where the short course yielded just two double clears.
Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and G&C Quitador Rochelais, owned by Gustavo Mirabal and AM Horses SL, were the first pair to qualify for the jump-off and return over the short course. The pair tipped a block off the wall to incur four faults and finish fourth with their time of 48.93 seconds. Sameh el Dahan and Joanne Sloan Allen’s WKD Diva were next to go and cleared the course in the winning time of 47.90 seconds.
Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and Stephex Stables’ Ensor de Litrange LXII followed, dropping one rail jumping out of the vertical-to-oxer double combination, and finishing their round in 48.45 seconds for a third place finish overall. For the third day in a row, The Netherlands’ Frank Schuttert landed in second place, this time riding Syed Omar Almohdzar’s Apart to a clear jump-off round in a steady 56.26 seconds. Last to go, Denmark’s Nikolaj Hein Ruus guided Gerardo Pasquel’s Big Red to fifth place honors with two fences down, the first and the last on course, in a time of 51.72 seconds.
El Dahan got WKD Diva, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Balourado x Hors La Loi II), three years ago when she was six years old. He has built a great partnership with the feisty chestnut and declared that, as her names implies, the mare can be a “wicked diva.”
Describing Diva’s energy, el Dahan stated, “She impresses me every time she goes into the ring. She gives everything for me in the arena. She uses her energy in a good way, so it makes it a bit easier.”
The course was a challenging one on Friday, with many riders faulting at the final fence on track, and el Dahan was proud of his young mare for clearing it.
“I was 20th to go and by that stage there was only one clear round,” el Dahan detailed. “It was very difficult for everybody. That last jump was very wide. You have a big, tall vertical before it, so the horses jump too careful. They need a little bit of scope to jump that oxer and I was lucky. The mare has plenty of scope and lots of ability, so I encouraged her a little bit on the back rail, and she jumped beautifully. I’m lucky to be sitting on such a good horse.”
After completing a clear round in the jump-off, the rider described his initial feeling as relief, noting, “You look for a win for a long time. That was a good jump-off, and I thought it was quick enough, but there is always somebody that can be faster. You always have to wait until the last one in the ring and that sigh of relief comes if you are still in the lead.”
Friday’s win was one of the biggest in el Dahan’s career, and he remarked on the feeling of achieving that victory at the esteemed ‘Masters’ Tournament, stating, “That was one of my biggest wins and it is always a privilege to be at Spruce Meadows. The ‘Masters’ is such a big event and people watch it around the world. Being in the winner’s circle is a privilege. I am very lucky to be here.”
Surbey Checks a ‘Masters’ Win off His Bucket List
Friday night at the ‘Masters’ featured the ATCO Six Bar competition in front of a fantastic crowd in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows. Twelve entries started in round one where the fences climbed to a final height of 1.60m. Eleven continued on to round two where the final height went up to 1.75m. Seven combinations advanced to the third round with the final fence set at 1.85m, where only two were able to clear the obstacles without fault. In the fourth and final round, the height went up to a towering 1.90m with only two left to go.
From twelve entries down to two, Canada’s Chris Surbey jumped clear at the 1.90m-height aboard Spruce Meadows’ own Arezzo to take a hometown victory. Robert Smith (GBR) and his own Ilton brought down two fences to settle for second place. Knocked out in round three, Richard Spooner (USA) and Chivas Z, Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) and Arrayan, and Pedro Veniss (BRA) aboard Rissoa d’Ag Bois Margot all tied for third place.
Commenting on his victory, Surbey declared, “It is unbelievable. It is bucket list material to win a class at the ‘Masters’. It feels amazing.”
Surbey’s winning mount, Arezzo is an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Querlybet Hero x Walzertakt) that the rider took over from fellow Spruce Meadows rider Kelly Koss-Brix this summer.
“As far as I know he has not done anything like this before,” Surbey detailed. “Kelly rode the horse for most of the season and I just took him over in June. We have just been progressively building our partnership. He had some good competitions here at the Summer Series. Then he came with me on a European tour and stepped up to jump some grand prix competitions. He is starting to gain a lot more experience, which I think helped him tonight under the lights.”
The atmosphere was electric in the International Ring Friday night as a packed house of fans cheered the riders on.
“It was amazing. We had a super crowd,” Surbey noted. “They get a lot of people in the same area right along the fence line to watch, so it is very special. I definitely felt them cheering me on.”
Though Surbey acknowledged that he has never jumped a fence of that size before, he felt like Arezzo could have jumped even bigger, and had confidence in his mount.
“He is super brave. He just got better as we went,” Surbey stated. “I tried to keep everything fairly consistent and I think he jumped it pretty easy. I think he found that the distance was getting quite short, so he drifted a little bit to the side to try to make himself more room, but I thought he jumped really well. He has lots of power and scope, so the height was not a problem.”
The ‘Masters’ Tournament continues on Saturday featuring the Suncor Winning Round 1.50m, followed by the BMO Nations’ Cup, with teams from 10 different countries competing. For a complete tournament schedule and full results, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.
Calgary, AB, Canada – June 28, 2015 – The 2015 ‘Canada One’ Tournament at Spruce Meadows concluded on Sunday, with an electrifying jump-off in the $126,000 Imperial Challenge and a win for Egypt’s Sameh el Dahan riding Suma’s Zorro. The pair topped an eight-horse jump-off, last to go, with a courageous gallop to the final fence. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Chaqui Z finished second; Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) and Armstrong van de Kapel placed third.
Also competing on Sunday, Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez (MEX) jumped to victory in the $34,000 West Canadian Cup 1.50m with his mount, Puertas So What.
Concluding the week, course designer Peter Grant (CAN) saw 35 starters in Sunday’s $126,000 Imperial Challenge. He yielded eight clear rounds to continue on to the tiebreaking jump-off where five competitors also cleared the short course without fault.
First to go in the jump-off, Eric Navet (FRA) set the pace with a clear round in 43.84 seconds aboard Signe Ostby’s Jonkheer Z, to eventually finish fourth. Maggie McAlary (USA) followed with a steady clear round in 47.84 seconds riding Double H Farm’s HH Ciske van Overis to place fifth. Olivier Philippaerts upped the pace in 43.68 seconds with Ludo Philippaerts’ Armstrong van de Kapel next. Shane Sweetnam was faster, with a time of 43.62 seconds aboard Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Chaqui Z. Last to go, Sameh el Dahan and Suma’s Zorro set the final mark in the winning time of 42.39 seconds.
Owned in partnership by Joanne Sloan-Allen and Sameh el Dahan, Suma’s Zorro is an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare sired by VDL Douglas. A small chestnut with a big heart, Suma’s Zorro carried her rider to one of the biggest wins of his career on Sunday. This was El Dahan’s first 4* grand prix victory.
“I have won a couple of 2* grand prix, but this is definitely one of the biggest wins of my career, especially at a place like Spruce Meadows,” El Dahan stated. “I think everybody as a kid watched Spruce Meadows on TV and wondered if they would ever get a chance to jump here and I have been lucky enough to do it two years in a row. I was here last year and I had a very good season. I did not have any grand prix wins, but I was always in the prize giving. This year, I think I was lucky to be in this position and win one of the biggest grand prixs in my career.”
“I did not see anybody go,” El Dahan said of the jump-off. “I just had Joanne at the ring watching for me. She came to me just before I went and said I had to get the nine strides from the combination to the water tray oxer. It worked out really well for me because I was a little slow from jumps one to two because the mare was slipping a little bit. I got the nine strides up there and then Joanne said I had to go as fast as I could down to the last fence. She said, ‘Be brave, your mare is careful and she is going to go over it.’ That is what I did and I think it paid off today.”
El Dahan has ridden Suma’s Zorro for four years and knew she would give it her all to clear the final obstacle.
“I know her really well and I know I can trust her,” he stated. “I have been riding her since she was seven years old and she is such a fighter in every way. Whatever I ask from her, she never lets me down. She has a great heart.”
Shane Sweetnam was a very close second with his mount, Chaqui Z, but was happy with his round on a young horse and also happy to see Dahan get his win.
“I thought the course builder did a great job,” Sweetnam said of the competition. “I thought the course was quite big when I walked it, but the time was nice today. Eight is a good number to have clear and I thought it was an exciting jump-off. Obviously I was on the wrong side of a second, but I have a young horse and I was very happy with him. Sameh is a great guy and it was a great win for him.”
Gaspar Albanez Wins Big at Spruce Meadows
Beginning Sunday’s competition in the Meadows on the Green, the $34,000 West Canadian Cup 1.50m saw 23 entries, with a five-horse jump-off. In his first time ever at Spruce Meadows, 17-year-old Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez (MEX) jumped to an exciting victory aboard his 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Puertas So What (Quattro x Iroko).
“This is my first time here and this win was a very big thing for me to do with some very good riders in the jump-off,” Gaspar Albanez stated. “The course was tough for me. It was my first 1.50m competition, so it was a big challenge.”
Quentin Judge (USA) and Double H Farm’s HH Memphis were first to qualify for the jump-off, and finished the short course on four faults in 47.79 seconds to place fourth overall. Gaspar Albanez and Felipe Gaspar’s Puertas So What followed with the winning clear round in 45.08 seconds. Beezie Madden (USA) jumped next with a clear round in 45.64 seconds to finish second aboard Abigail Wexner’s Breitling LS. Brianne Goutal (USA) and Remarkable Farms LP’s Rebeca LS followed with the third place round in 47.77 seconds. Last to go, Luis Larrazabal (VEN) had one rail down in 48.94 seconds to place fifth aboard Gustavo Mirabal’s G&C Close Up.
“I bought Puertas So What a little over one year ago,” Gaspar Albanez said of his mount. “I am very proud of him. He is fantastic; I think he is my horse of a lifetime.”
“I knew I was competing with the best riders in the world, so I knew I had to give it all or nothing,” the rider said of his jump-off. “I went and I did everything I could and finally won. It feels fantastic to win here. Last week I was second in the 1.45m, so I was close and I thought it would be fantastic if I could win one. If not, I still would have left happy with this experience, but now it is even better.”
Spruce Meadows’ Summer Series continues next week with its ‘North American’ Tournament CSI 5* on June 30 – July 5.
Sameh El Dahan Smokes Competition in $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup
Calgary, AB, Canada – June 8, 2014 – The Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament, presented by ROLEX, came to an exciting conclusion today with the $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup 1.50m Derby. Quentin Judge (USA) and HH Dark de la Hart, owned by Double H Farm, sped to victory in the class over Angel Karolyi (VEN) and Indiana 127 and Richard Spooner (USA) riding Cristallo. In the $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup, Sameh El Dahan (EGY) and Sumas Zorro were far and ahead the rest of the field for the win.
It was an incredible final day of the ‘National’ Tournament, with a record official attendance for Sunday at the ‘National’ at 38,962. The total tournament attendance was 87,082.
The Spruce Meadows Summer Series continues with the ‘Continental’ CSIO 5* Tournament on June 12-15, featuring the $125,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ presented by Scotiabank on Friday, June 13, and the $210,000 CP Grand Prix on Sunday, June 15. The $85,000 Husky Energy Classic 1.50m will be featured on Thursday, June 12, and the $85,000 Talisman Energy Cup 1.50m will be the highlight on Saturday, June 14.
There were 15 entries in the $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby. The course, which was designed by Leopoldo Palacios seven years ago, is the same each year. The test of endurance and stamina asks questions at a variety of jumps, including double liverpools, the table bank, the derby bank, and the Devil’s Dyke. There are 19 numbered obstacles and 25 jumping efforts on course.
Palacios said, “I designed this course seven years ago. I (have) only had three cleans. I think it was good; I don’t see real bad pictures. Every rider has the chance to do it. I had faults almost everywhere, and I am very happy for this. The riders were wonderful today and gave the best effort. I congratulate the winners today.”
Riding out of the number one spot in the order, Karolyi and Indiana 127, owned by Hollow Creek Farm, set a respectable mark to beat with eight faults in 155.82 seconds.
Karolyi recounted, “Today, I thought he jumped a beautiful first round. I underestimated the Devil’s Dyke. I rode in a little soft, thinking I would have a big gallop towards the end. I just didn’t make it to ‘c’ and had that down. Then I lost my concentration and basically rode terrible at the last one and had the last jump down. I was glad that I had another chance to ride it, and I did better.”
Many rails fell as competitor after competitor failed to match Karolyi’s finish, until Judge and HH Dark de la Hart entered the ring.
The pair finished three seconds faster, and with eight faults, they both waited to see what the rest of the class would produce. Neither imagined that a jump-off would be in their future, but when the last two in the ring, Spooner and Cristallo and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on Fineman, both had eight jumping faults and one time fault, Karolyi and Judge knew they would have to return to the ring.
Spooner had a plan going into the derby and stuck with it after having an early rail. He slowed down in order to hopefully finish on four jumping faults and no more than three time faults for the win, but it did not go according to plan. “I made the decision then that I was going to cough up some time, because with three time faults I would still win. When I had the rail, I bought myself an extra 12 seconds,” he explained. “He just accelerated out (of the grob). Rarely is it deep on the way out. For him, it was deep because he has no fear with that grob. Other than that, we would have had a better day, but I’m still happy with the day we had. It didn’t work out, but I think mathematically I did the right thing.”
Going first in the jump-off, Karolyi was neat in 49.70 seconds and most importantly, kept all the jumps up. Judge followed, and he rode with speed through the first part of the course in order to have time to prepare for the “Canada flag planks” jump, which he had down in the first round. With that left standing, all it took was seven strides galloping to the final oxer, which they cleared. With a time of 45.73 seconds, Judge captured his first win in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows.
Judge recalled, “I’m lucky enough I got some really good advice from McLain Ward and his team before I went in. He said it’s not crazy fast, and I didn’t need to take too many risks. But I knew I had to take time to the Canada planks (that) I had down in the first round. It’s a hard jump anyway, and I really had it down in the first round. I thought if I could go as fast as I can up until that point, I could take some time. I heard the announcer say I was two seconds up. I almost did six (strides) coming home because I wanted to get through it!”
Karolyi has been paired with Indiana 127 for a year and a half, and since the horse had some time off, he has been working on Indiana’s fitness. “He’s actually in the best physical condition I’ve ever had him in. I had plenty of horse left,” he noted.
Karolyi felt that Indiana 127, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Indoctro, would have no trouble with the derby elements on course. “He’s a nice, bold jumper. He doesn’t really look at anything,” he said. “He did the Parcours de Chasse yesterday. He jumped everything very well, and we were fifth in that. I was quite comfortable going in.”
Although Cristallo, a Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero, is 16 years old, Spooner said that he still has energy to spare. “My shoulders are sore,” he joked. “I picked the wrong bit. I thought I’d put the soft bit in, it’s a long course, he’s so old, and I realized as I was walking up to the ring that it was a big mistake. He was just ravenous. He was ready to go. He’s a freak of nature. Rarely do you have a horse that has that type of endurance. He didn’t even break a sweat out there. I think the mistake I made is that I didn’t do him in the grand prix as well yesterday. He was too fresh.”
Judge has been working on “Dark’s” fitness and felt he was more than ready for this derby. “He bucked about 20 times coming out of the ring (after) the jump off, so I think I did (have lots of horse left). He’s really fit right now,” he said. “I had a really good feeling about it for the last couple of weeks. I’ve never done a derby on him, but he’s playful and he’s brave, and he really seems like he enjoys what he does. We’re lucky enough at home on our farm to have a slide bank, double liverpools, all those things. I tried to school him out there a couple of weeks ago, and he was pulling me down to everything. I thought if I was looking for a good derby horse, this might be the one.”
HH Dark de la Hart, an 11-year-old Belgian Sport Horse by Kasmir van Schuttershof x Nonstop, has been “unbelievable” for Judge. The pair won the $35,000 Husky Energy Cup 1.50m in the Meadows on the Green at last year’s ‘Continental’ Tournament, and they have been on two winning Nations Cup teams for the United States. This was Judge’s first International Ring win at Spruce Meadows.
“For sure, it’s my biggest victory. That horse is really special to me,” Judge said.
El Dahan and Sumas Zorro Win by Four Seconds
Setting a blistering pace in the $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup 1.45m, Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan and Sumas Zorro, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare by Ard VDL Douglas owned by Joanne Sloan Allen, led the victory gallop for his first win in the International Ring. They stopped the timers in 68.557 seconds, more than four seconds faster than second place finishers, McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z (72.604 seconds). Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Picolo were third in a time of 74.295 seconds.
So how did El Dahan win by four seconds? “I really don’t know,” El Dahan laughed. “My mare is really careful, and she has a big stride. She was very neat everywhere. It was the turnbacks mainly. She was very neat to turn back and from there, I can really head to the fences because she’s very, very careful. I can just keep galloping at them. She just minds them, so it’s easy then. You drive to the fence, and she does her job. I think that’s how I won it.”
Coming to the end of the course, El Dahan wasn’t aware of how fast he was going. “I heard the commentator on the way, four fences before coming home. He said ‘five seconds,’ but I couldn’t hear if I was up or down on the clock, so I just kept coming. I thought I was slower than what it was,” he said.
El Dahan went early in the class and had to wait and see if his time could be beat, but as each competitor’s time ticked past 68 seconds, he nervously waited and hoped. “It was a long wait for me, especially at the end of the class (with) McLain Ward, Shane Sweetnam, Conor Swail. They’re all very fast riders. It was a long wait watching from out there,” he admitted.
But as the last rider completed the class and El Dahan realized he won, nervousness switched to excitement for his first five-star win and gratitude for his special horse. El Dahan has ridden Sumas Zorro for more than three years since he joined Sycamore Stables in Northern Ireland. After growing up in Cairo and competing in Europe during the summers, El Dahan made the full-time move to Europe to fulfill his goals in the sport. Business partner Joanne Sloan-Allen and El Dahan found a number of horses that they have been bringing along.
Of Sumas Zorro, he described, “I know her inside and out. She’s like my little baby. She trusts me as well; we have a really nice relationship. She’s careful, scopey, a fighter, easy to ride. She’s just a dream horse. When you sit on her, you know you’re on a superstar.”
Sumas Zorro was meant to jump in yesterday’s grand prix, but El Dahan changed her plan. “The first day she didn’t jump as good as she normally does. I think the trip took a lot out of her. We decided to give her a couple of days off, didn’t jump her in the grand prix, and I jumped my other mare,” he explained. “She was fresh for today, and I think it paid off really well. Next week I’ll move her up again to the grand prix level.”
This is El Dahan’s first trip to Spruce Meadows; he and Sloan-Allen brought four horses, two of which are showing in the national classes. This International Ring victory went to the top of his list of accomplishments. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve been wanting to come to this show for years,” he said. “I’ve been watching it on TV, and I’ve always said I’d love to ride here. It’s such a big ring and such a big crowd. With the competition that is here, the field of riders and horses, I’ve never had such a big win. It’s been like a dream come true.”