Week three of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by Adequan®, concluded on Sunday, January 31, with the $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Held in the International Ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z jumped to victory out of 54 entries and a 13-horse jump-off.
Luc Musette of Belgium set the course for Sunday's 1.50m. With 13 in the jump-off, only four were able to clear the short course without fault. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Unbelievable 5, owned by Windward Farm and Jessica Suida, were the first pair to clear the jump-off in 38.45 seconds. They won the class last week, but settled for second place this time around. Richard Spooner (USA) and Little Valley Farms' Chivas Z cleared the course next to take third place honors with a time of 40.08 seconds. Mac Cone (CAN) and Chadburn Holdings Inc.'s Gasper van den Doorn jumped the next clear round in 44.73 seconds to finish fourth. Last to go, Ward and Double H Farm's HH Carlos Z blazed the winning time of 37.14 seconds.
The 14-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z x Voltaire) had a long break after the Royal Winter Fair in November and is getting back into top form to begin his 2016 season.
Commenting on the build up to Sunday's win, Ward noted, "Our schedule got a little screwed up this week with the weather. Normally I like a warm-up class with him, but he had to go straight into the WEF (Challenge Cup) on Friday. He actually jumped great. I did not ride very well. I think I over-rode him a lot, so I tried to settle down a little bit today and just ride him normal. I thought he jumped a good first round. There were a few kinks I still wanted to work out, and then when he gets in the jump-off, you normally have a pretty good chance."
"There was an option from jumps two to three," Ward detailed. "I saw Meredith get the five (strides), and when I walked it, I thought I could do it. He is a funny horse because he is a small, little horse, but he has this huge stride at times, but not always. I definitely was going back and forth on it a little bit, but I decided that if I got one and two the way I wanted, I would keep going and I did. Then the last line was a little long, but he stayed really careful."
"We needed a clear round and a win," Ward admitted. "I always feel like I start a little rusty after the break and it is certainly good for the confidence."
The rider also commented on the first round course, stating, "It was good. I think Luc is a great course builder. For me, I think he actually comes a little early in the season because I think he builds difficult and I don't know if I am quite ready for difficult, but I thought he had the right number clear for the number in the class."
Source: Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions News // Picture © Sportfot
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