Richard Vogel and United Touch S Are Untouchable in Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix

February 24. 2024

Winning was a matter of fractions for Germany’s Richard Vogel and United Touch S in the $385,000 Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ at Wellington International’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on February 24. WEF hosts 12 weeks of FEI competition at Wellington International and runs through March 31.

Under the glittering lights of Wellington International in front of a packed International Arena, four athletes advanced to the jump-off from a starting field of 39 in the season’s second five-star grand prix. Three of the top-15 riders in the world advanced to the tie-breaking jump-off, including Vogel, currently ranked no. 11, Mclain Ward (USA) in eighth and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) 12th were joined by Darragh Kenny (IRL). All four produced clear rounds over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s (USA) track, making the deciding factor the numbers on the clock. 

Podium finishers Richard Vogel, Mclain Ward and Shane Sweetnam are presented by Melissa Brandes, Director of EQ for Lugano Diamonds. Photo © Sportfot

Kenny set the standard at 46.14 seconds aboard VDL Cartello, a 17-year-old Holsteiner stallion (Cartani 4 x Lord) owned by Heathman Farm, LLC. The lead changed hands quickly as two-time U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Ward, piloted his 16-year-old Casall mare, Callas, to a time of 42.39 seconds for owner Beechwood Stables. Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) he owns together with Gizmo Partners, LLC, gave their best effort in 43.53 seconds to sit second before the final draw. 

Vogel and 12-year-old Westphalian stallion United Touch S (Untouched x Lux S) saved the best for last and broke the times in 42.04 thanks to the horse’s massive stride. Their time earned the win for owner Julius-Peter Sinnack, bumping Ward to second and Sweetnam to third to round out the podium placings.

“It's a very, very special feeling,” noted Vogel of his time spent on the back of United Touch S. “I have been lucky enough to ride a lot of good horses in my life, but he's outstanding. When he leaves the ground, that power and scope is something very unique and I'm very happy to be in his saddle.”

Richard Vogel & United Touch S, winners of the $385,000 Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

Vogel admitted that he had added confidence returning from the last draw in the jump-off. “I was very lucky that I went behind all three of these guys, and I knew I had to risk it all,” said the 26-year-old. “If I had a rail, I was fourth and if I was a slow clear, I was fourth so there was not so much to lose. 

“It means a lot to win here on a Saturday night; it’s a very special atmosphere,” continued Vogel, who is coming off victories with Untied Touch S at CHI Geneva and the FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona. “Whether it's a three, four or five-star, these nights have a special character.”

Mclain Ward & Callas. Photo © Sportfot

Ward won a ‘Saturday Night Lights’ grand prix at Wellington International with Callas just over a year ago as the mare made her debut at the top level of his string. On Saturday, he was still honored to have the ride. “She was ridden by Annie Revers, and luckily for me she went on to school and work and I was offered the ride. She's been a great partner for me; she has a really good character and she rises at the big events.”

The crowd was behind Ward at every stride and he noted that he felt the support and it motivated him, saying, “With both these guys coming behind me on very fast horses, I didn't think I could do some of the numbers that both of them maybe were capable of doing. But I figured it was worth taking the risk to do everything I could. Sometimes when someone beats you, you think, ‘I would have done this or I would have done that,’ but I did everything I could tonight. There was nothing left.”

Shane Sweetnam & James Kann Cruz. Photo © Sportfot

Commenting on D’Ambrosio’s courses, Sweetnam noted, “When I walked it, I thought there would be more clear, but certainly a fair course from Anthony. There were four good clear rounds and he picked up rails in different places. With my horse, it's better that there's less clear than a rat race of a jump-off.

“This time of year is always hard with [James Kann Cruz] because he gets a break after the end of the year,” continued Sweetnam. “He has a lot of energy coming back, and we've been working towards this grand prix since his break. Honestly, that's his best performance in a while in both rounds. He was really consistent and in a good frame of mind, so I was very happy with him.”

Melissa Brandes, Director of EQ for Lugano Diamonds, joined the top-three riders to express her appreciation of their performances, noting, “It was an incredibly exciting class. I've been watching throughout the season and this was definitely an amazing competition 

“I'm very blessed to work for a company that believes in giving before anything else and we are an extremely philanthropic company, but also a company that believes in being involved in the communities that we're passionate about,” she continued. “Equestrian was definitely a passion for our founders Moti and Idit Ferder and they began our partnership here that has been not only long-standing but a partnership that has grown immensely over the years. We are appreciative of being a part of an incredible organization and watching these riders and horses do their craft so beautifully proves it's truly an art.”

Vogel’s groom, Felicia Wallin, was presented with the $500 Grooms Award, sponsored by Double H Farm, by Caitlin Creel. Photo © Sportfot

Vogel’s groom, Felicia Wallin, was presented with the $500 Grooms Award by Double H Farm after the victory in recognition of her care of Untied Touch S. 

The win during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ was combined with a top-ten finish for Vogel riding Cepano Baloubet on Thursday in the Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup qualifier. The consistent results secured him the Martha Jolicoeur Leading International Rider Award, presented together with Michael and Wendy Smith. 

Richard Vogel is presented with the Martha Jolicoeur Leading International Rider Award, presented together with Michael and Wendy Smith, by Martha Jolicoeur (center), Dr. Stephen Norton (right) and Isabel Jolicoeur (center). Photo © Sportfot

During the daytime session in the International Arena, USA’s Alex Granato raced a win in the Ethel M Chocolates CSI2* 1.40m ahead of the two-star grand prix on Sunday. He piloted Helios van de Nosahoeve, owned by Kisma Equestrian, LLC, to win by two seconds over fellow U.S. rider Veronica Tracy aboard Coleridge Equestrian, LLC’s Munin. Conor O’Regan (IRL) rounded out the podium placings in the irons of Carmen de Bonnieres in third for owner Ericka Houlihan.

Alex Granato & Helios van de Nosahoeve. Photo © Sportfot

International competition continues at WEF with CSIO4* Nations Cup competition presented by Florida Coast Equipment during Week 8. 

Top Five Results: $385,000 Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix

  1. Richard Vogel (GER) & United Touch S: 2012 Westphalian stallion (Untouched x Lux S)
    Owner: Julius-Peter Sinnack
  2. Mclain Ward (USA) & Callas: 2008 Holsteiner mare (Casall x Coriano)
    Owner: Beechwood Stables, LLC
  3. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & James Kann Cruz: 2013 Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising)
    Owners: Shane Sweetnam & Gizmo Partners, LLC
  4. Darragh Kenny (IRL) & VDL Cartello: 2007 Holsteiner stallion (Cartani 4 x Lord)
    Owners: Darragh Kenny & Heathman Farm, LLC
  5. Jordan Coyle (IRL) & Chaccolino: 2011 Warmblood gelding (Chacco-Blue x Heartbreaker)
    Owners: Jordan Coyle & Elan Farm

View Complete Results