McLain Ward and Antares F won the fifth round of the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series on Thursday afternoon in Wellington. The pair was the fastest of three clear jump-off rounds in the class to win over 64 starters.
Nine out of the original 64 entries jumped clear over the first round course to jump off, and only three jumped clear to finish at the top. McLain Ward and Antares F – owned by Grant Road Partners – had the fastest clear round in 40.85 seconds to earn first place. Pablo Barrios and G&C Quick Star 11 finished in second place with their time of 41.94 seconds, and Jennifer Crooks from Ireland rode S.F. Uryadi into third place with a clear round in 51.34 seconds. The remaining six horses in the jump-off all had four faults, with the fastest of those four-fault rounds placing Nick Skelton and Carlo 273 into fourth place.
The winning combination of McLain Ward and Antares F is a fairly new partnership within the last six months, and Ward noted that he and the eleven-year-old Baden-Württemberger gelding (by Araconit x Cento) are gradually getting to know each other. "We are still learning different things and I do not think we have it exactly right yet, but we are close and we keep winning pretty decent classes," Ward stated. "That class today was as hard to win as any grand prix anywhere in the world. We had almost 70 of the best and it was difficult."
Jumping in the large, open space in the International Arena, Antares F covered the ground with ease and then left out a stride in the last line to take the lead. Ward spoke further about the horse, stating, "He has an incredibly big stride, but he is also very fast across the ground. He is an aggressive horse, so you don't really have to make him go fast. You just have to soften the reins and he moves across the ground, so it makes him quite quick, especially in big spaces."
One of the world's best riders, Ward has many exceptional horses in his barn, and spoke about the difference between his three tops mounts, Antares F, Rothchild, and Sapphire. "They are really all different. This horse, stride-wise, is similar to Sapphire but he has tons more blood. He is an incredible jumper and he is a little bit of a handful, but in a good way. Rothchild is what he is; he is quirky and a little bit of a character, but he is in good form and he kind of quietly keeps jumping clear round after clear round," Ward observed. "One thing about Sapphire is that you always know what you are going to get. The other two aren't quite to the consistency level that she is at yet, but I hope that eventually they will be."
Thursday's WEF Challenge Cup was a qualifier for Saturday night's $150,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix. A total of 45 riders may compete, including the top ten North American riders on the FEI Rankings list as of October, eight of which are currently here in Wellington. The remaining 37 positions will be filled by the top placed riders in today's class. Ward and Antares F will compete again on Saturday night following today's victory.
For more information go to www.equestriansport.com
Source: Press release from equestriansport.com by Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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