It was a very emotional night at Alltech National Horse Show as McLain Ward piloted his top mount Antares F to victory during the Alltech $250,000 Grand Prix, benefitting the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. The win comes just days after the passing of his father, Barney Ward, who had been Ward's most important supporter. Ward rode through his grief to beat six others in the jump-off, as the first to compete on his speedy partner.Christine McCrea followed in second place aboard Romantovich Take One with the only other double clear effort, while the third place award went to Candice King and Whistler with a single time fault over the speed track.
"This has been the hardest week of my life," admitted Ward. "My dad was my world. If I was right with my father, I was right with the world. My dad certainly had some flaws in his life, but he sacrificed an unbelievable amount for my family and me to live our dreams, and this is our dream. We shared the same dream," he said with tears welling. "I owe a career and a life to what he provided for me and taught me to do. I didn't know we would win today, but I knew we would go on and do well, that's what he taught us to do in life. I think everyone knows how much I loved my father, and how much I am going to miss him. I loved him very, very much. I rode with a heavy heart today, but we forge on and do his dream."
Ward certainly made his father proud tonight. Seven riders found the key to Richard Jeffery's first round course during the World Cup Qualifying event. Ward was the first to do so with Antares F, owned by Grant Road Partners, and therefore the first to return for the short course. He was right on point with his Olympic mount, making a very sharp turn to a vertical-oxer double combination, and then opening up his gallop through the remaining obstacles. The strategy worked and they broke the beam at 48.48 seconds with all the rails in place, a score that would prove unbeatable.
"The turn to 6a felt rough; it was a very difficult jump off course," said Ward after his victory. "There were tricky turns and strong riders coming behind me. Antares is an incredibly brave horse. He helped me out a great deal there, but after that the courses suited him and I could get a little bit of a gallop and let his stride take me home."
One of those strong riders was Christine McCrea with Romantovich Take One, owned by Candy Tribble and the Windsor Show Stables. She managed to produce the only other faultless effort, but was just a touch off of the pace with a time of 49.81 seconds, after trying to figure out how to rollback to one of the single verticals. "There were a lot of different jumps in that area and I didn't get a chance to see McLain go. That was as hard as I feel like I could go," she noted. "I don't think I could have gone too much faster."
Candice King rode one of the more conservative routes on Whitsler, a young mount owned by Louisburg Farm. She left all the fences intact, but stopped the timers in 55.29 seconds and with a time allowed of 55 seconds, it resulted in a single time fault. King was originally planning to ride Kismet 50, owned by Bellissimo LLC, but after an injury earlier in the week she decided to make a switch. "I was thrilled with Whistler's performance," she commented. "He's a young and upcoming stallion, that has been a little bit of a process to get to this point. I spoke to the owners, and we decided to take a shot with him to night. It worked in my favor and I am quite excited."
Saer Coulter also had time faults with Springtime, owned by Copernicus Stables. Although they cleared all the fences, their time of 56.81 seconds added two faults to their score for fourth place. Beezie Madden had one of the most exciting rounds with Abigail Wexner's Simon as she cut the turn to the vertical and took a different approach to the combination. Unfortunately they lowered the height of the triple bar later in the course for four faults in 49.50 seconds for fifth.
Lauren Hough also had a single rail at the double combination after a big stumble cutting one of the turns with Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo. They clocked in at 50.99 seconds with four faults, which was good enough sixth place. Hillary Simpson rounded out the seven riders that advanced to the tiebreaker with Nopus Du Gue Joubert, owned by Quiet Hill Farm. The pair had errors at two fences for an eight-fault total.
$250,000 ALLTECH GRAND PRIX CSI-W 1.60M
1 248 ANTARES F MCLAIN WARD 0 0 0 72.980 0 0 0 48.480
2 247 ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE CHRISTINE MCCREA 0 0 0 72.270 0 0 0 49.810
3 274 WHISTLER CANDICE KING 0 0 0 75.500 0 0 0 54.290
4 270 SPRINGTIME SAER COULTER 0 0 0 77.930 0 1 1 56.810
5 242 SIMON BEEZIE MADDEN 0 0 0 74.710 4 0 4 49.500
6 295 QUICK STUDY LAUREN HOUGH 0 0 0 72.570 4 0 4 50.990
7 257 NOPUS DU GUE JOUBERT HILLARY SIMPSON0 0 0 73.630 8 0 8 53.300
8 301 CORTEZ NICOLA PHILIPPAERTS 4 0 4 72.760
9 262 UCEKO KENT FARRINGTON 4 0 4 72.800
10 220 BARONEZ KIRSTEN COE 4 0 4 73.570
11 258 AMARETTO D'ARCO SHANE SWEETNAM 4 0 4 74.220
12 250 SASKIA 269 CARA RAETHER 4 0 4 74.390
Source: press release from Phelps Media Group Inc.
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