McLain Ward showcased his winning style once again at the CP Wellington Masters, presented by Sovaro™, piloting HH Carlos Z to his second victory in a row during the $50,000 Longines Qualifier CSI3*.
The Pan American gold medalist once again used going early in the order to his advantage, sticking to his plan with his quick mount and making the other riders try to catch him. The duo topped the 11-horse jump-off, beating Canada’s Ian Millar and young rider Maggie McAlary for their second victory gallop of the week.
After rain early Friday morning, the highlight event was moved to the new sand arena at Deeridge Farms. Alan Wade built a technical course for the class, which was the qualifier for Sunday’s $200,000 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Wellington. Fifty-six entries took their turn over the track, with only 11 managing to cross the finish line without fault and return for the jump-off.
Ward was the pathfinder in the first round and returned with plenty of gas in the tank for the tiebreaker on HH Carlos Z, owned by Double H Farm. He easily galloped through the turns, leaving each obstacle intact and setting the pace to beat at 37.52 seconds. The generally stoic Ward left the ring with a big grin, knowing he had left it on the line.
“I don't often think I've shut the door,” expressed Ward. “I know that there are people that can get you, like Mr. Millar, but I had a pretty good feeling that I had done at least a good job. [HH Carlos Z] is fast, and it was one of those rounds were everything just showed up out of stride. It just worked really well. I love to go earlier in the jump-off, especially with a fast horse. I kind of put what other people do out of my head, and I just really ride my round.”
Millar was the next rider to produce a clear round with Dixson, owned by Susan and Ariel Grange. Although they tried to catch Ward’s time, the pair was two seconds slower when they crossed the finish line in 39.72 seconds to earn the second place ribbon.
“I was really going for it,” said Millar. “I was quite impressed, and not in a good way, between first and second. I didn't get that close to him. I left out a stride in the first line. I was thinking, ‘that's good; that lets off a second.’ Then I was a little bit slow on one turn, but I thought I was closer than I was. However, all of the riders sitting watching McLain thought exactly what he thought, that he had nailed it and left very little margin.”
Katie Dinan was double clear with her veteran mount Nougat Du Vallet, but their conservative time of 47.69 seconds would only be good enough for fourth place. For the second day in a row, the third place award went to a Double H Farm mount, and this time it was Maggie McAlary riding HH Ciske Van Overis. The pair broke the beam at 41.72 seconds leaving all the rails in their cups.
“The horses are jumping well,” Ward said of the Double H mounts. “These horses are fresh, which is nice. Unlike a lot of people, we give our horses a long rest in the winter. It's kind of a dying art I have to say. There's a show every week on the calendar in every city so people just show. I think the circuit's so stressful now, and the travel and what we're asking of them. It really clears their heads.”
Ward has certainly had a winning streak at the inaugural Wellington Masters, but all of the riders are enjoying the new venue and new addition to the winter circuit.
Millar commented, “It's fantastic. The effort that has been made by the Jacobs family, and for the right reasons - they made the effort as sportsman. This really is about the sport, for the sport, by sportsman. That's very, very much appreciated I would say by all of the riders.” A sentiment Ward was quick to second.
Now, the riders will be focused on Sunday’s $200,000 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Wellington, which will get underway at 11 a.m. A total of 14 athletes from the new Longines FEI World Cup™ North American league will qualify for the prestigious Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, which will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden March 23-28. The top seven athletes from the East Coast U.S., the top three from the West Coast U.S. and the two best-placed athletes from Canada and Mexico, will qualify for the final, along with the winners of 15 other leagues around the world.
The Wellington Masters will continue Saturday with the $20,000 Jumpers 1.40m Open Jumpers at 11 a.m. On Sunday, the day will kick-off at 7:30 a.m. with the 1.15 Open Jumpers, followed by the $200,000 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Wellington at 11 a.m.
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group // Picture © Rebecca Walton
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