CORK’S Shane Sweetnam and the Irish Sport Horse CSF James Kann Cruz claimed their biggest individual victory to date when winning the five-star $405,300 America Gold Cup Grand in Traverse City, Michigan, USA last Sunday.

Alan Wade designed a big testing 1.60m track for the 31 starters and just three managed to come home clear in the first round. Sweetnam was joined in the jump-off by his student, USA rider Lacey Gilbertson, and by multiple Olympian McLain Ward. In a nail biting jump-off, Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz were the only combination to keep a clean sheet, breaking the beam in 40.42 seconds.

Ward had one down with Callas in 41.71 to take the runner-up sport, while Gilbertson, who is not as experienced at this five-star level, took third after 12 faults with Karlin van’t Vennehof, a horse previously ridden by Sweetnam. Conor Swail finished in ninth place with Vital Chance De La Roque, when he had one down in the first round in 81.37.

Bred by Patrick Connolly, the nine-year-old gelding James Kann Cruz is by Kannan out of CSF Telly Cruz (Cruising) and the pair hit the headlines in Ireland last month when they were part of the winning Aga Khan team and finished third in the five-star Longines Grand Prix of Ireland.

Amazingly, it was only Sweetnam’s second ever five-star Grand Prix win on Sunday and he scooped just over $133,000 in victory.

“It’s a great feeling to have,” Sweetnam said of James Kann Cruz who is owned by the American-based Gizmo Partners LLC. “It’s one of those horses you search your whole career to find, and when you find it you don’t believe it’s real. Every day he comes out and his form is even better. So I have to echo: what a horse.

“I always thought there was something special about him but you never know until you start working with a horse and start building the relationship,” Sweetnam added. “As soon as we turned up in January, everything went the right way and everyone was talking about him. It’s a different kind of pressure to win, and instead of managing every little detail I just have to let him do what he can do. He’s a great horse and he showed that.”

Another victory

The Gold Cup was the second victory for Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz as they had earlier claimed Friday’s $73,800 1.50m.

One of 10 combinations to make it into the jump-off, Sweetnam was the fastest of eight double clears in 36.62. Finishing further down the line in sixth was Conor Swail and Vital Chance De La Roque, when they also kept the poles in place in a time of 39.99.

Speaking after that win, Sweetnam said: “I saw McLain [Ward] go right before me and he has a big-strided horse, so I knew what I had to do number-wise. He just got back from Europe and I haven’t really gone that fast with him since I’ve had him. Now the target is to try to go a bit faster and try to win some classes. It was great that it paid off today.”

On Thursday, Conor Swail took the runner-up place in the 1.40m two-phase when he delivered a foot-perfect round with Fasole Du Seigneur in a time of 32.38. Paul O’Shea was also in the ribbons the following day, claiming fourth place with the nine-year-old Sexy Beast in the $37,000 CSI2* Table A.

The Limerick native delivered a clear in a time of 60.84. In sixth place was Conor Swail and Fasole Du Seigneur who was only a fraction slower when clocking 61.19 for sixth place. Shane Sweetnam and Irandole Du Flot took seventh place when crossing the line with nothing to add in 62.14.

Sweetnam added to this unforgettable weekend with extra cash after winning the season-long CaptiveOne Advisors Leading Open Jumper Rider Bonus.