• Catie Staszak

Breaking Down the Leaders of the CaptiveOne 1.50m Classic Series



Saturday Night Lights at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) will briefly shine the spotlight away from grand prix competition for the CSI4* CaptiveOne 1.50m Classic Series Final, an event that has often proved a steppingstone for the sport’s top stars as well as offered an enticing award to the overall series leader.


Series standings have been updated weekly, and heading into the series championship, we break down the leaderboard’s top performers. Who’ve you got: the defending champion, the Olympic gold medalist, the leader by points average, or the rider with the hot hand?


Check our stats, first.


Series Leader: Shane Sweetnam (IRL) — 425 points


Shane Sweetnam captured the 2021 Final aboard the winning machine that is Indra van de Oude Heihof, but this year, he brings forward a younger and less experienced mount in The Triple S Group’s 10-year-old KWPN mare Holliewood (Nabab de Reve). Sweetnam has earned points in every week of the circuit outside of WEF Premiere aboard a variety of mounts, which has earned him a commanding 141-point lead in these standings.


Sweetnam’s best results in the division have indeed come aboard Holliewood, who added a fourth-place finish during WEF 10 to a top 10 finish at WEF 5 and a runner-up finish at WEF 2. Uniquely enough, Sweetnam has yet to win a 1.50m Classic this season in Wellington, but consistency has made him a dominant force overall.


Sweetnam has averaged just 4 faults at the 1.50m height at WEF 2022, with an average placing of 15—a career best at the 13-week circuit. With Holliewood, those averages are even better; the pair boasts an average placing of 11 and is averaging just 2 faults at the height this year.


Impressively, Sweetnam has finished in the top five in 60 percent of his 1.50m Classic starts this season, doing so with four different horses—Holliewood, Alejandro, Indra van de Oude Heihof and James Kann Cruz.


Current Runner-Up: McLain Ward (USA) — 284 points


McLain Ward’s name speaks for himself. The two-time Olympic gold medalist had his best weeks at WEF 5 and WEF 10, when he finished fifth and sixth with HH Azur and Kasper van het Hellehof, respectively. This week, he’ll bring forward Robin Parksy’s 9-year-old Oldenburg mare First Lady (Don Diarado x Lordanos), who recorded top 10 finishes in the division at WEF Premiere and WEF 3.

Remarkably, Ward has averaged less than 10 faults at the 1.50m height at WEF in every year since our records begin in 2009—that’s a span of 12 years.


Sitting in Third: Petronella Andersson (SWE) — 270 points


It’s a much closer race between second and third in these standings, as Petronella Andersson has found much success in the division despite it being the 30-year-old’s first season at WEF in two years (and just her fourth season ever). More impressive is the fact that she has accumulated her large sum of points in just five outings in the class, all since WEF 5. Her best finish came at WEF 9, when she finished third with Claptonn Mouche.


Andersson has opted for Stephex Stables’ 12-year-old Zangersheide mare Cassina Z (Casado v’t Gelutt Z x Lux) for the Final. Cassina Z is in good form, having jumped to 7th at WEF 10.


Ones to Watch: Karl Cook (USA) — 260 points (5th) and Darragh Kenny (IRL) — 187 points (14th)


While Andersson is averaging an impressive 54 points per 1.50m Classic start this WEF season, Karl Cook is averaging 52 points of his own in the same number of starts. That includes two wins—more than any other rider this season.


Cook topped the class during both WEF 8 and WEF 9 aboard Ircos IV and Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet, respectively. The 12-year-old Belgian-bred mare Kalinka (Thunder vd Zuuthoeve x Flipper d’Elle) will return this week for the Final, having also finished second at WEF 6.


The top 50 riders from Wednesday’s CSI4* Douglas Elliman 1.45m—won by U25 rider Isabella Russekoff and Balou’s High Fly—advance to Saturday night’s Final, and Sweetnam (Holliewood), Ward (First Lady), Andersson (Cassina Z) and Cook (Kalinka) all jumped double-clear.


Don’t forget Darragh Kenny (IRL), either, who was last year’s overall series leader and will take on the Final aboard his Olympic mount, VDL Cartello. Cartello is jumping his first international competition since December’s Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva (SUI), where the pair finished fourth. Kenny sits 14th in the series standings this year with just three starts, but he has averaged an eye-opening 62.3 points per start. That includes a WEF 10 win with Volnay du Boisdeville. In last year’s final, Kenny had the very last fence down in the jump-off to finish eighth.


No one’s catching Sweetnam in the series standings, but the Final could be anyone’s game.


Photo: Shane Sweetnam and Indra van de Oude Heihof in the 2021 CaptiveOne 1.50m Classic Final (SportFot)