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“King of Devon” strikes again: McLain Ward claims 12th $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4* win with Contagious

Friday, 03 June 2022
CSI4* Devon Horse Show 2022

Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports. McLain Ward and Contagious won the CSI4* Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon. Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports.


Press release from Devon Horse Show



Show jumping competition reached a pinnacle Thursday night at the Devon Horse Show, with a packed house of spectators ready to cheer on some of the sport’s best in the $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*. With a full grandstand and viewers across the country watching through ESPN3, thanks to their sponsorship with USEF Network, the enthusiasm surrounding Devon’s premier event was as high as it had ever been. At the end of the night and two competitive rounds, it was the “King of Devon,” McLain Ward, and Contagious who came out on top with the win. 

Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) fashioned a 16-obstacle first round course for the field of 20 athletes prepared to battle it out for a ticket into one of the most coveted jump-offs in the United States show jumping calendar year. First to contest over the track fit for the CSI4* occasion was Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) and Cornwall BH. One rail down in the final line of the course, which would quickly be coined “heartbreak alley” as it continuously became the source of faults on course, would keep her out of contention. However, the United States Catherin Tyree and her own BEC Lorenzo gave the electric crowd a reason to cheer with the first clear round effort of the night. Following suit with fault-free rounds to add their names to the jump-off roster was Mark Bluman (COL), Shuyler Riley (USA), Adrienne Sternlicht (USA), Mimi Gochman (USA), Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Ward (USA).

Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports. McLain Ward and Contagious. Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports.

Kicking off the seven-horse star studded jump-off, Tyree and BEC Lorenzo put the pedal to the metal, acquiring 8 faults across the shortened seven-obstacle track and setting the pace at 35.95 seconds. Bluman, riding Marilyn, also put in a quicker effort in 35.63 seconds, but one rail tipping to the ground would leave the door wide open for remaining competitors. Riley and Robin De Ponthual, the oldest horse in the jump-off at 17 years old, positioned themselves atop the leaderboard following their 33.57 second round with no faults to their names, while Sternlicht immediately followed with a 4-fault finish in 34.25 seconds aboard Cristalline. The youngest rider of the evening, 17-year-old Gochman, and Celina BH produced a nearly-clear effort with only the last fence coming down and crossing the timers in 33.12 seconds. Penultimate athlete in the jump-off lineup Delauriers and her mount Enanda posted a time of 33.62 seconds, but 8 faults left them out of the running for the top honors.

Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports. Schuyler Riley and Robin Du Ponthual finished second. Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports.

Always a force to be reckoned with, all eyes were on Ward and his 2020 Olympic Games mount, Beechwood Stables LLC’s Contagious, as they walked under the “Where Champions Meet” arch. With 11 wins in the Devon Grand Prix under his belt, Ward walked with a vengeance as he mapped out his path around the jump-off course, hoping to secure yet another win to secure his title as “King of Devon.” A swift start to the course immediately put the 13-year-old Deutches Sportpferd gelding ahead of the rest, and Ward’s expert navigation of the track continued to shave seconds off of the clock throughout. Risking it all to claim his twelfth win and fourth consecutive win in the $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*, Ward’s dash for the cash would pay off as he landed from the final fence in a clear 32.3 seconds to once again lead the victory gallop around the famed Dixon Oval. 

Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports. Third place went to Mimi Gochman and Celina BH. Photo © Emma Miller/Phelps Sports.

Second place honors would ultimately go to Riley and her 2022 FEI World Cup Finals mount, Robin De Ponthual, a 17-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by Katherine Gallagher. Third place was awarded to Gochman and Gochman Sport Horse LLC’s Celina BH. The 17-year-old is in her first year of competing in CSI4* competition, making her top-three finish with the 12-year-old Holsteiner mare a career highlight for her.

FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE: McLain Ward (USA) – $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4* winner

On what it means to win the Devon Grand Prix for the twelfth time:

“It’s kind of an amazing journey. I always grew up watching my father here and this is such an important event for all of us. This ring for me has really become my home. I get gret energy from the crowd, I love it, and no matter how many places I go in the world and great experiences I get to have around the world, I love coming back here. I love this crowd and I’m always up for the class and it just always seems to go my way."

“I feel at home here and this is a very comfortable place. I know the ring very well and the little idiosyncrasies of the arena. I know where the crowd is and where the horses might be distracted, which is always a factor. I always come here with my top horses! I enjoy it a lot here. When I have a bad day here or something goes wrong, it feels like family and they are understanding. You focus on the competition and try to do all the planning and preparation. I feel nerves, which I have always dealt with, but that comes from desire. No matter where I go in the world or what I am lucky enough to be a part of, I always enjoy coming back here. I think the atmosphere is one of the best in the world. The buzz is the same as a 70,000 person crowd and they are knowledgeable, which is very unique here in the United States. I haven’t been anywhere where I think there is a better atmosphere than here.”

On how his week started:

“The horse was great [Wednesday] and he has been all year, but in the jump-off he slipped. It happens – it is part of the sport and is a factor. He hit the ground pretty hard but luckily he was ok. I was a little sore but when your adrenaline gets going it sort of takes over. I don’t think the horse was any worse for wear from it.”

On his strategy:

“I thought the first round was kind of a friendly course to be honest – Never free but a little bit on the friendly side. I thought the jump-off was quite big, funny enough. It was a bit awkward with the turn to fence three and then a vertical in a funny place. One side of the ring is always notoriously difficult, which you saw in the first round, but I thought the jump-off was quite challenging. Schuyler [Riley] had a great round and I’m proud to say I sold [Robin De Ponthual] originally, so it was a win either way! I know she has a big stride, and I don’t have that kind of stride, so my horse had to be quicker with his feet. I really tried to utilize that advantage.”

On what he learned about Contagious at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games:

“I have to say, I originally had not thought of him as an Olympic horse, which I have said before. We were hopeful but we thought he would be a really good Grand Prix horse but he has the heart of a lion in a horse. He just fights and fights and fights. His rider is a bit of a fighter too, so it’s a good combination. He has given us so much and his partners made that happen. They believed and trusted me and the horse has rewarded us.”

Schuyler Riley (USA) – second place

On competing at Devon:

“I think I only showed here once as a junior, but there is so much history here and it has always been on everyone’s radar as a special place to be with energy that is unreal. I came back here as an amateur and then as a professional and I’ve always had good energy here. The last time I was here with Robin [De Ponthual], he jumped clear. He loves the energy here as well so I had a positive feeling going into tonight.”

On her strategy:

“For me, my horse is a slower mover than most. He has a big step but he has a slow way of going so time-allowed is always the biggest concern. I thought the track was built to CSI4* level, but was jumpable. Like McLain said, the jump-off was tricky to jump clear, and my horse is brave and careful. I went as fast as I thought I possibly could on Robin and we discussed a glimmer of six strides down the last line, but it was only if I caught the first distance to the vertical. As I turned to the vertical I saw it and went for it! For Robin, that is as fast as he is going to go and I am so proud because he jumped his heart out tonight. He has been a really special horse for me in my career and I am honored to be second.”

Mimi Gochman (USA) – third place

On her strategy:

“I was really going for a clear but I have been working a little bit on moving up with [Celina BH] and trying to find the spacing at the higher heights, and I think that is something that comes with learning and trying to go that fast but also giving room at the jumps. She jumped her heart out and she tried her best, and it’s always a learning lesson, but I am honored to be in the top three and I’m really excited.”

On being a junior rider:

“It is a little intimidating, but I try to focus on Celina and our partnership and the courses. I listen to all of the advice I’ve been given and watch the fantastic riders as much as I can to learn and do my best.”

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