McLain Ward is hard to beat at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. On Friday afternoon Ward rode Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve to victory in the $50,000 Spy Coast Farm/Young Horse Show Series Grand Prix Qualifier, and he grabbed third place on Antares F. As the third rider to start in the 13-horse jump-off, Ward, on Antares F, stopped the timers just 0.02 seconds short of the mark Kent Farrington had set right before him on Venus (42.26 seconds). Four more riders tried and failed to lower Farrington’s time before Ward returned to the Grand Prix ring on Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve. Ward, 36, visibly set his jaw to go for first place and then submarined the two leading times, finishing in 40.33 seconds.
Only one of the remaining six riders finished faultlessly as they attempted to surpass the top pair. Farrington, of Chicago, Ill., kept second place. “I knew I had second with Antares when I came back in, and I thought we could hold it, so I figured I’d go for it,” said Ward. “Pjotter is a very fast horse.”
This was the third jumper class that Ward, of Brewster, N.Y., has won at this show and the third time in the last four years that he’s won this class. And on Sunday he’ll try to win the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix for the fourth consecutive year. In 2009 and 2010, he won it on Sapphire, his 2004 and 2008 Olympic team gold medal mount, and in 2011 he won it on Antares F, his 2012 Olympic mount. In 2011 Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve won the $30,000 Pilatus Cup, which will take place on Saturday.
On Sunday, though, Ward and Antares F will have a new challenge. The FTI Grand Prix is now part of the new Taylor Harris Triple Crown Challenge, which awards a $200,000 bonus to a horse-and-rider combination if they win the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon, $250,000 FTI Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic and $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix at the Alltech National Horse Show in the same year. Ward won the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon on Antares F in May, so he’s the only rider who can win the bonus in 2012. “Antares feels great, and I hope he’ll perform as well on Sunday,” said Ward.
Source: Press release from hamptonclassic.com
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