McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z raced to victory Saturday night in the $125,000 President's Cup Grand Prix CSI 4*-W, presented by Events DC, at the 56th annual Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). Competing at Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., Ward will have his name etched in WIHS history for now winning the coveted President of the United States Perpetual Cup four times in his illustrious career. The Longines FEI World Cup qualifying grand prix was the highlight event of the week at WIHS as competition concludes on Sunday with the Pony Hunters, WIHS Pony Equitation Finals, and WIHS Regional Finals.
Course designer Anthony D'Ambrosio set the tracks for jumper competition throughout the week at Verizon Center. In Saturday night's grand prix, he saw 26 entries and just four were able to clear the first round course without fault. Rising star Jessica Springsteen, two-time Olympic gold medalists McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, and young Olympian Reed Kessler made up the star-studded line-up of American show jumpers to jump-off to the thrill of a packed house in their nation's capital.
Springsteen and Stone Hill Farm's Davendy S were the first combination to jump clear in round one and set the pace in the jump-off with a clear round 34.30 seconds to eventually finish second. Kessler jumped next with Kessler Show Stables LLC's Cylana and had one rail down in 35.50 seconds to earn fourth place honors. Ward and Double H Farm's HH Carlos Z followed, and upped the ante with the winning round in 33.52 seconds. Madden and Abigail Wexner's Simon were last to go and beat Ward's time in 33.48 seconds, but dropped a rail to place third.
"I have been in a little bit of a post-WEG (World Equestrian Games) rut with four faults," Ward admitted after his win. "I felt Carlos was going well, so I was really pleased to jump a clear round tonight. Jessica has been impossible to beat. I saw her go in the jump-off and I went back in the schooling area and thought, 'This is a task,' but he really responded great. He turned phenomenally, and he is such a careful horse. I was really excited. I felt the horse was due a win, and it was nice for it to come together at a great show like this."
Saturday's win marks the fourth time that Ward has earned the coveted President's Cup after topping the competition with Goldika 559 in 2004 and twice with his superstar mount, Sapphire, in 2008 and 2010. The win with Goldika was for owners Double H Farm and after a few years apart, Ward has once again renewed his partnership with the Harrison Family. They are the owners of HH Carlos Z, the winning 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z x Voltaire).
"Every win is a little bit different," Ward said of his triumphs. "The two on Sapphire were, as always with Sapphire, always easy. She made life very easy. I remember winning it on Goldika the first time. I had had a couple of second (places) years ago when it was at the Capital Centre, and your first win is always sweet. I'm excited about the partnership with Mr. Harrison, this being one of his horses he flew in for tonight to watch. As everybody knows, I am always proud to ride a horse for him and it was nice to have a victory, so that makes it always special. It was a nice win."
Jessica Springsteen's second place finish concluded a phenomenal week of competition for the 21-year-old rider with wins in Wednesday's $10,000 Welcome Stake, Thursday's $20,000 Gambler's Choice, and Friday's $25,000 Puissance. Springsteen swept the show's international jumper championship sponsored by Robin Parsky, earning the championship with Lisona and the reserve champion with Davendy S. She was also presented with the $15,000 Leading International Jumper Rider Award, sponsored by The Boeing Company, along with the Margaret Chovnick Memorial Trophy, and the $10,000 Leading Rider 25 Years of Age and Under Award, sponsored by Sleepy P Ranch. The Springsteen Family's Stone Hill Farm was the Leading Jumper Owner sponsored by The Reid Family. Belgium's Olivier Philippaerts was named Leading Foreign Rider after winning Friday's $50,000 Speed Final.
Commenting on an unbelievable week, Springsteen smiled, "I am thrilled. My horses jumped so good all week. Every time I brought them out they felt super, and I am really thankful for that."
Springsteen got Davendy S in August and this was the pair's very first grand prix together, although they have had several great wins. "I took her to L.A. and jumped a pretty big class about the size of this, so I felt pretty comfortable bringing her into this grand prix," Springsteen detailed. "She felt amazing, and I felt like I rode her a lot better today compared to the other days. She jumped great. She was so careful and brave. She is an incredible horse, and I am lucky to have her."
Ward, Madden, and Springsteen all have their sights set on the Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas in April 2015 and earned valuable points in Saturday night's class. For Springsteen, it would be her first time qualifying. "I really want to go to Vegas. I have never been (to the finals) before, so it is my goal to go next year," the rider stated. "I won one qualifier already and now I was second in this one, so I am happy I have the points."
Ward agreed, stating, "Beezie and I are a little behind the eight ball on World Cup points. We were focused on the WEG and missed some early qualifiers. Being that it is in Vegas, which is a great event that we love going to on home soil, I know I for one am desperate to go. I was getting very, very nervous. Last week I didn't get any points and knew if it didn't happen in the next couple weeks I was in trouble, so it is a nice leg up and hopefully we'll have one or two more good results and it will look better, at least."
Madden, who won the World Cup Final in 2013 with Simon, is also looking to return to the event this year. "I would really like to go to Vegas and this is only the second qualifier that I have done as well," she said. "I got a few points last week, but not great, so this is a good score, and I am happy to have it under my belt."
Commenting on the night's round with Simon, Madden noted, "I saw Jessie go and I knew McLain was faster than her, so I thought, 'Oh, it's not so easy.' It was actually a good jump-off for me because it wasn't too much running anywhere. I just tried to use his turning ability to be faster and that's where I was fast was on the turn from two to three, and then spinning around at the other end of the ring as well. He was very fast there, but the eight stride got a little steadier than I thought it would. I thought I had it fit in, and his momentum carried me a little deeper than I thought there."
Ward commented on the course, explaining, "I thought it was very good tonight because when I walked it, I thought it was a little on the soft side to be honest, which I think is a great sign. When you walk a course and it seems very complicated or hard, that is an obvious test, but when a course designer comes up with a course that seems smooth and fair and you get a limited number clear, I think that is always a sign of a good test. I thought Anthony did a good job."
D'Ambrosio explained his plan for the track, stating, "I thought I had a very good field and that I could build a real 1.60m World Cup qualifier, which I did, and I really like the way it unfolded. I had a nice number clean. I would have been happy if I had more clear, but it worked out well with regard to the number we had. We had a lot of four-fault rounds. I think a lot of riders felt really good about the way the horses performed. That means a lot to me, and I am pleased with that. It was a good competition."
Final Results: $125,000 President's Cup Grand Prix, CSI 4*-W, presented by Events DC
1 HH CARLOS Z: 2002 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Voltaire
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Double H Farm: 0/0/33.52
2 DAVENDY S: 2003 BWP mare by Kashmir van Schuttershof x Pachat II
JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), STONE HILL FARM: 0/0/34.30
3 SIMON: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/4/33.48
4 CYLANA: 2002 Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco
REED KESSLER (USA), Kessler Show Stables: 0/4/35.50
5 ANDRETTI S: 2005 KWPN gelding by Corland x Animo
LAURA KRAUT (USA), Stars & Stripes: 4/58.47
6 AIR FORCE ONE: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by President x Quat'Sous
KAMA GODEK (USA), Kama Godek: 4/58.74
7 ROCKY W: 1998 KWPN gelding by Libero H x Corofino
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), Kaitlin Campbell: 4/58.92
8 VDL WIZARD: 2003 KWPN gelding by Gentleman x Ahorn
CALLAN SOLEM (USA), Horseshoe Trail Farm Florida LLC: 4/59.60
9 QUALITY GIRL: 2003 Oldenburg mare by Quidam's Rubin x Dobrock
TODD MINIKUS (USA), Quality Group: 4/59.98
10 D'ATLANTIQUE ROYALE: 2003 BWP gelding by Darco x Kannan
FRANCOIS MATHY (BEL), Francois Mathy: 4/60.11
11 INDIGO: 2000 KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Unknown
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek & Gladewinds: 4/60.43
12 BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 4/60.72
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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