McLain Ward of the United States scored his third consecutive victory in the $132,000 Longines FEI World Cup in Toronto on Wednesday, November 11, at the Royal Horse Show®, held as part of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in downtown Toronto, ON.
Ward of Brewster, NY, topped a two-horse jump-off to claim victory in the Royal Horse Show’s World Cup qualifier for a record seventh time. After winning at The Royal in 2013 and 2014, Ward made it three in a row, taking the $132,000 Longines FEI World Cup Toronto in front of a packed house in the Ricoh Coliseum.
“My father competed at The Royal for a number of years and now, for my daughter to come here and be a part of this, it’s very special,” said Ward, 40, whose nine-month-old daughter Lilly was in the audience. “I love it here.”
A starting field of 22 entries attempted the tough track set by British course designer Richard Jeffery. More than half-way through the order, back-to-back clear rounds were delivered by Ireland’s Dermott Lennon aboard Loughview Lou Lou for owner Judith Sossick immediately followed by Ward riding HH Azur for Double H Farm.
Lennon and Loughview Lou Lou returned first over the shorten jump-off course, but clipped two rails for eight faults in a time of 42.04 seconds. With the door left wide open, Ward opted for a conservative clear, picking up one time fault in the process to finish in 47.58 seconds.
Despite setting a tough track that he described as “big” with no verticals set lower than 1.60m, course designer Jeffery was pleased with the outcome. “Every fence came down at least once and I was happy with the result,” he said. “I wanted it to be a real World Cup class, and I built for that. McLain showed us tonight with that horse what a future the sport has.”
Lennon, 46, settled for second with Loughview Lou Lou, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare. “The horse traveled well and jumped well tonight, so I am happy,” said the 2002 World Champion about the mare that shipped from Europe to Toronto to compete at the Royal Horse Show. “It was a difficult course for her and she gave a lot in the first round. She’s not the easiest ride, but she’s very competitive and always wants to try.”
Three mares dominated the top spots with Roberto Teran of Colombia posting the fastest four-fault effort in the first round riding Woklahoma to finish third for owners ARK Partners, LLC. “Toronto is like my second hometown,” said Teran, 38, who is based in Burlington, ON, during the summer season. “I always want to come here because I think it is super special. Today was a little unlucky, but I am happy with the result. Looking back, I would have pulled a little harder for that vertical and been in the jump-off!”
Nicola Philippaerts of Belgium rode H&M Forever D Arco Ter Linden to fourth place for owners Frans Lens and proud father Ludo Philippaerts while Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Breitling LS rounded out the top five for the United States.
Ward also won the $15,000 McKee International Jumper Challenge earlier on Wednesday riding Carneyhaugh Manx, but the horse on his mind at the end of the day was HH Azur, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui).
“It’s a bit of a dream,” said Ward, who won back-to-back Olympic team gold medals in 2004 and 2008. “I would say she’s the horse of a lifetime if I hadn’t had Sapphire. To get a second one like this is pretty incredible, and I hope I do her justice and manage her well. Every time the horse goes in the ring she’s better, higher, faster. The only time she has a fence down is if I have a terrible error.”
Ward explained that when he began riding HH Azur this winter, he quickly realized that she could be his mount for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “We knew after Florida that she was everything we thought she was, and she’s only gotten better this summer,” he said. “Everything she does now will be working backwards from Rio.”
Wednesday evening’s event marked the inclusion of the Royal Horse Show as one of only four Canadian events to be selected for the newly-formed Longines FEI World Cup North American League. The class offered valuable points towards qualifying for the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup Final to be held from March 23 to 28 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Charlie Johnstone, CEO of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, acknowledged what a privilege it is for the Royal Horse Show to be part of the Longines FEI World Cup North American League noting, “To host the Longines FEI World Cup Toronto added to our credibility and stature in the industry. The World Cup is such an iconic event. “We are honoured to have these riders put on such a great show for us here tonight,” he continued. “What has surprised me the most is the emotional connection that people have with The Royal. The commitment to continue that really is something special.”
For more information on the Royal Horse Show, the marquee event of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, please visit http://www.royalfair.org/horse-show. To purchase Royal Horse Show tickets, please visit Ticketmaster at http://www.ticketmaster.ca/venueartist/131553/986584.
Source: Press release from the Royal Horse Show
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