In front of a pumped up Saturday night crowd at the 131st National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky, Olympic teammates Beezie Madden and McLain Ward did battle once again. In this skirmish it was Madden and Cortes 'C' edging out Ward and Rothchild by a single second to claim the title in the $250,000 Canadian Pacific Grand Prix CSI4*-W, presented by the Harrison Family. Madden had the advantage of going last and ripped across the finish line in a sensational time of 34.71 seconds to nail down the win. Just minutes earlier, Ward and Rothchild had posted the top time of 35.73 seconds, but ended up settling for second place. Georgina Bloomberg and Juvina finished in third in 39.46 seconds.
Thirty-eight starters went to the post and were faced with a solid World Cup test with 13 numbered obstacles and 16 jumping efforts, designed by popular Brazilian course designer Guilherme Jorge. He used a triple combination early on at 5abc and a double later at 9ab. The triple caused plenty of problems at the top of the order and then once the riders began to solve that dilemma, fence 6, the tall CP vertical and 12, the very wide CP oxer coming home, began to take their toll. All in all though, faults were spread throughout the course and a snug time allowed added time faults to a number of score sheets, but none more heartbreaking than the single time infraction that prevented Laura Kraut and Andretti S from advancing to the dash for cash.
Tonight's top finishers all had praise for Jorge's tough, but fair test. "Today he really ratcheted up the test," Ward noted. "I think it was an appropriate test for a World Cup. Three of the best horses in the class, in my opinion, near the top. So I think that was a really good result for this level of competition."
Madden agreed. "I think he made it a bit more difficult today. I think he was a little restricted in the height in the prize list for the other classes. In this one he had a little bit more freedom, and I think it made for a good jump-off and a good result. It was a good class."
"Thursday was very much on the soft side, but he learned the footing is good here, there are good horses here," added Bloomberg. "Today he did a really good test which is the most important thing."
Overall, eight horse and rider combinations mastered the first round course, totaling seven women and Ward, and all of the riders were from the United States. In fact, the highest placed foreign rider tonight was Beat Mandli of Switzerland with Antares F in 10th place.
Although the jump-off would prove to be one of the best we've seen in a long, long time, it didn't start out that way. Over the shortened jump-off track, the first three to return all rolled the rail in the same fashion, at that same problematic fence #6. Brianne Goutal, the first to go clean in the first round with Nice de Prissey, had that rail and then one more to finish with eight faults in 38.856 seconds.
Kirsten Coe and Baronez had only the troublesome rail at fence 6 down to move ahead of Goutal with only four faults on her scorecard, in 40.54 seconds. Local favorite, Reed Kessler, finished with eight faults, but was faster than Goutal to move ahead of her in the order with Cylana in 37.53 seconds.
And then the fun began. Candice King guided Kismet 50 to the first double clear of the night, much to the delight of the boisterous crowd on hand. King was clean and concise in a time 41.66 seconds, but in the end she would be nearly seven seconds off the winning pace. But, she certainly got the crowd buzzing.
And Georgina Bloomberg got them going even more. Making some neat turns with Juvina, Bloomberg galloped home almost two seconds faster than King in 39.46 seconds. "For me, my aim with her is to go for a nice slow clear and hopefully have that be good enough for a good ribbon," Bloomberg said. "Today, I felt I could be a little quicker and take a shot at it. I also knew that realistically, she at her fastest is always going to be a little slower than Beezie and McLain at their fastest. So I knew if they didn't pull any rails, I probably wouldn't finish behind them," she said.
McLain Ward and Rothchild were the next to enter the ring and from the start, Ward never let off the gas. He was at high speed the entire way around the eight fence track. Meeting every fence almost perfectly, Ward raced home almost four seconds faster than Bloomberg in 35.73 seconds. "I didn't think I left a lot out there, but I wasn't confident I was going to win either with Beezie coming behind me," Ward admitted. "I have to say though, if I was in that position 100 times I would have ridden the same exact ground. With her coming behind me, I think I would have ridden the same round. Maybe if I had gone after her, I would have tried to do the impossible, but I did about all that I could. My horse doesn't have quite as big a stride, but he jumped super."
"Rothchild just keeps giving and giving," he said. "I would have liked to have won, but I really can't second guess anything that I did."
Lillie Keenan and Pumped Up Kicks, in their race for tonight's top prize, dislodged the rail at 8 on their way to a finish time of 38.82 seconds. She would end up fifth on the night.
That set the stage for Beezie Madden and her always ready to go partner, Cortes 'C.' Madden matched Ward's track step for step, but Cortes, naturally, has the bigger stride. However, it was Madden's approach to the final fence that really sealed the deal on tonight's win. The pair raced home in 34.71 seconds, a second ahead of Ward and Rothchild. "I knew McLain was very fast. My husband John told me that. I knew that I would have to pull out all the stops. He also told me to take a risk and use his scope at the last fence. I think maybe I stretched it a little too far," she laughed.
"He's been amazing all year. I'm really happy that he came back and did well," said the WEG Team and Individual Bronze medalist. "This is his first competition back in the states. I'm really happy he's still on form and doing well."
"He's like a big puppy dog. He loves attention from people. He'll put his head right in your lap. I think he'd love to be a lapdog in his next life," she smiled. "He'll let you know if he doesn't like something though. He'll make that very clear."
Hunter Harrison, the CEO of Canadian Pacific and Chairman of the Board of the National Horse Show and sponsor of tonight's event said, "Let me congratulate Georgina and McLain and Beezie for an outstanding performance. It's a pleasure for us to be able to sponsor a show of this prestige and for it to come off as well as it did. You can congratulate the course designer. He did a wonderful job because you see the cream came to the top here tonight. Three of the top riders in country and three of the top riders in the world," he said. "We just feel very privileged at Canadian Pacific to be able to sponsor a wonderful event like this."
Harrison then announced some very exciting news. "We made a commitment today to go through the 2016 National Horse Show as sponsors. We would probably go even further, except we have a policy that you cannot go beyond a CEO's tenure. I'm out in 2017 and we'll have to sell the new CEO that it's a tradition that he should carry on," he smiled.
Madden captured the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider award and the Audi Leading Rider award for her efforts tonight, but more importantly, she bankrolled some valuable World Cup points as everybody is fighting for a spot at the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas next April. "My first goal is to qualify. Even though I had a good score today, I really only have planned to do seven qualifiers unless I get desperate and start scrambling around," she said. "Seven scores count, so I need all those to be good really." Tonight was certainly a step in the right direction.
Madden and Ward will head to Toronto next. For Bloomberg, it's wait and see. "I'm right on the cusp for Toronto. So I'll have my bags packed and ready to go if I get the call the night before," she said. "I'd love to go. Juvina has had a little rest now, and she felt fresh so I felt like I could make a little shot at it. Hopefully, I get into Toronto. If not, Paris is the next stop." Not a bad alternative.
$250,000 CANADIAN PACIFIC GRAND PRIX CSI4*-W 1.60M
Order Entry # Horse Name Rider Name JF1 TF1 AF1 Time 1 JF2 TF2 AF2 Time 2
1 346 CORTES 'C' BEEZIE MADDEN 0 0 0 74.270 0 0 0 34.710
2 370 ROTHCHILD MCLAIN WARD 0 0 0 74.230 0 0 0 35.730
3 356 JUVINA GEORGINA BLOOMBERG 0 0 0 75.640 0 0 0 39.460
4 226 KISMET 50 CANDICE KING 0 0 0 75.560 0 0 0 41.660
5 355 PUMPED UP KICKS.. LILLIE KEENAN 0 0 0 75.940 4 0 4 38.820
6 336 BARONEZ KIRSTEN COE 0 0 0 75.220 4 0 4 40.540
7 262 CYLANA REED KESSLER 0 0 0 75.640 8 0 8 37.530
8 339 NICE DE PRISSEY BRIANNE GOUTAL 0 0 0 74.490 8 0 8 38.850
9 342 ANDRETTI S LAURA KRAUT 0 1 1 76.200
10 353 ANTARES F BEAT MANDLI 4 0 4 72.800
Source: Press release from Kenneth Kraus and Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International.
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