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McLain Ward and Contagious claim $36,600 MMG Welcome Stake CSI3* in Traverse City debut

Friday, 28 August 2020
CSI3* Traverse City 2020

Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group. McLain Ward and Contagious. Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group.

 

Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc.

 


 

The first major show jumping event of the Traverse City Fall Horse Show CSI3*, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, took place Thursday at Flintfields Horse Park in the form of the $36,600 MMG Welcome Stake CSI3*. Showcasing the talents of 77 international contenders hailing from nine nations, the contest demonstrated that horse-and-rider combinations are back to full form following absences from competition for many of them due to COVID-19. Twenty-two partnerships mastered the primary course to earn a spot in the tie-breaker round, and McLain Ward (USA) steered Beechwood Stables LLC’s Contagious (Contagio x For Keeps) to victory by fractions of a second during his debut outing in Traverse City.

For the first round of the class, course designer Ivan Tagle (ARG) produced a fair pattern for competitors early in the week. First to go, Kristen Vanderveen (USA) showed the large pack how it is done with an initial clear trip aboard Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili (Berlin x Darco), blazing the trail for a class that would ultimately feature 22 fault-free rides. Teddy Vlock (ISR) immediately followed suit riding Charly Brown (Diamant de Semilly x Burggraaf), and soon the Israelis had two qualified thanks to Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z (Lawito x Baloubet du Rouet). Always formidable contenders, Ward piloted Contagious to the fourth penalty-free ride and Beezie Madden (USA) added her name to the list on Breitling LS (Quintero x Acord II).

As the class progressed, horse-and-rider pairs proved that they had learned from their earlier counterparts, with a strong sea of challengers rising to the occasion. Following the initial five, the new exhibitors that earned eligibility for the jump-off included Brian Moggre (USA), Adrienne Sternlicht (USA), Jonathan Corrigan (IRL), Beat Mändli (SUI), Margie Engle (USA), Shane Sweetnam (IRL), Nicholas Dello Joio (USA), Bliss Heers (USA), Chris Ewanouski (USA), Megan McDermott (USA), Liza Finsness (USA) and Nicki Shahinian-Simpson (USA). Vanderveen, Madden, Ward and Sternlicht each posed a greater threat of victory with multiple qualified mounts, but Vanderveen led the way after clear trips on all three of her horses. Time was a factor in the first round, as 13 partnerships accrued a single time fault to keep them out of contention.

Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group. McLain Ward and Contagious. Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group.

Twenty-one pairs returned for the handy round, with Madden electing to only pilot one of her qualified rides over the abridged track. Serving as the pacesetters, Vlock and Charly Brown were the first double-clear duo of the day, tripping the timers in 41.51 seconds to emerge as the early frontrunners, but Ward and Contagious easily overthrew them as the next to go and third in the order with a galloping ride that stopped the clock in 37.52 seconds. Throughout the jump-off, 18 subsequent teams chased down the leaders, but none managed to oust one of the top-ranked riders in the world from his throne, solidifying Ward and Contagious as the day’s big victors.

In the end, less than half of a second separated the top four finishers, making for a tight race to the top. Just milliseconds off the pace, Vanderveen and her own Bull Run’s Prince of Peace earned the reserve honors in 37.56 seconds, and Moggre rounded out the podium with the reins on MTM Vivre Le Reve, owned by Major Wager LLC, in third place in 37.77 seconds. Vanderveen also turned in the fastest ride of the class in 36.90 seconds on Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili as the very first returner during the jump-off, but an unfortunate rail at the third fence knocked her down the list. Ten pairs finished the class with a double-clear effort to their name.

Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group. Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Prince of Peace. Photo © Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group.

Headed into Thursday’s highlight event, Corrigan sat on top of the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus standings, a status he has held since the first competition week in June. Riders have three more weeks to earn points towards the bonus, which will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points in competitions $25,000 or more in prize money over the course of 11 weeks of riding in Traverse City, concluding with the $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4* on September 13. By the day’s conclusion, Corrigan still held the top spot, but he was tied with Vanderveen, who moved up from third place thanks to her reserve and fifth-place finishes Thursday.

Show jumping will continue for three more days in Traverse City for the Traverse City Fall Horse Show CSI3*, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. Friday will feature the $36,600 1.45m Speed CSI3* and Sunday will be highlighted by the $137,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City CSI3*.

FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE

McLain Ward (USA) – $36,600 MMG Welcome Stake CSI3* winner

On his win:

“It’s great to be here. It’s my first time here, my first competition, and Contagious performed beautifully. It felt like some really good sport in a tough year. It’s been a difficult season with the COVID-19 outbreak since Florida. We’ve been trying to stay safe and home, but it’s nice to get back into doing some international sport.”

On coming back from a break:
“I think you see all around the world now, because people are condensed into fewer locations, you see some pretty cutthroat competition at the 2*, 3* and 4* level. It’s fun to compete and that’s why we do it. Contagious is a fast horse, he’s coming back off of almost one year off, and actually this summer has been great to leg him back up.”

On the jump-off:
“I decided I was going to take a good shot with this horse; I think he’s ready to start going fast. Galloping to the first jump, it was showing up a little bit long. I almost chickened out but I stayed with it and he jumped it beautifully and made a good rollback. Jump two to three there were six strides, but I didn’t think it was a good call for my horse today. Kristen [Vanderveen] did get it on both of her horses. I knew I could take a good shot across the middle to the yellow skinny fence. My horse was so careful and everybody rolled back in seven. The long run to the double was the bogey, that black vertical coming in short really stopped the horses and then it was a blind seven strides at best around the corner to the last jump. Three strides out I thought, ‘It’s getting far away,’ but Contagious is really confident right now and he actually jumped the fence easy. He did everything I asked.”

On Traverse City Horse Shows:
“I’m actually incredibly impressed. The facility here is beautiful, plus obviously the lake location, and it seems like the community is really behind these sporting events. I’m really enjoying being here. We brought these horses out here aiming toward the American Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is one of the great competitions of the United States that’s alluded to me and it goes without saying it’s on my bucket list.”

 



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