Lebanon’s Jad Dana is back on top to start the 2024 season of the Winter Equestrian Festival with a win in the $75,000 Prestige Italia Grand Prix to cap Premiere Week at Wellington International on Sunday. Dana, 28, and ABC Quantum Cruise, owned by Wyndmont, set an uncatchable pace in an eight-horse jump-off during the week’s feature event in the International Arena.
“Every win is special, but winning today was unexpected,” said a surprised Dana after he stole the lead from Germany’s Richard Vogel over courses designed by Eric Hasbrouck (USA). “After watching Richard’s jump-off – who was right before me – I was thinking whether I should play it safe and go for a double-clear or give it a go. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win, but it was my day today.”
Dana, who trains with U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Leslie Howard, took over the top spot with room to spare in 37.038 seconds and bumped Vogel to second. Vogel piloted Cydello, owned by Coleridge Equestrian, to a time of 38.121 seconds. Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) rounded out the podium placings riding Santana, owned by Rocking Basilisk Farm, in 39.467 seconds.
“I knew I went fast, but I didn’t think I was a whole second faster,” said Dana. “I have a really nice string of horses and I’m very excited for the season. Hopefully it continues, but we will do our best.”
Sophie Gochman and John Ingram Conquer the Amateur-Owner Hunter Ranks
Amateur-owner hunters wrapped up their weeks on Sunday. New York’s Sophie Gochman and her own Colter took home the top tricolor in the Kiton Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 section, while Nashville’s John Ingram and Romeo, owned by John & Stephanie Ingram, took home the same honors in the Rani Arabella sponsored 36+ group.
After coming out strong with professional Scott Stewart earlier in the week, Colter – a nine-year-old gelding – continued jumping to blue with owner Gochman.
“Colter is always incredible to ride; he really knows his job,” said Gochman, 21. “This week was more about getting my riding back into gear. I haven’t shown since the Hampton Classic [this past August], so I wanted to get the feel back for my horses and get myself in the competition mindset. Scott [Stewart] got him nice and relaxed earlier in the week so it really allowed me to focus more on myself.”
In the younger group of the two divisions, Colter and Gochman won three of their four over-fences classes as well as taking the blue in the under saddle. Their highest score of the week was an impressive 92.