World of Showjumping
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Roadrunners clinch win on home soil in $268,000 CAD MLSJ team competition

Saturday, 02 December 2023
CSI5*/2* Desert International Horse Park 2023

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo The DIHP Roadrunners stood atop the podium, joined by the owners of DIHP and Michael Hankin of Brown Advisory. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.


Edited press release from Desert International Horse Park



The Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Roadrunners finally brought home their first win on California soil Friday night in the $268,000 CAD Premier Equestrian Major League Show Jumping team competition. With a loaded squad featuring Mclain Ward (USA), Cathleen Driscoll (USA) and Amanda Derbyshire (GBR), they were the sole team to jump clear in round one, and they brought home the gold medal in a blazing fast fashion as the next two rounds unfolded.

Now, after Desert Holiday 1, presented by Brown Advisory, the team sits just on the brink of winning it all, but it will require another victory next week in the MLSJ Team Final. 

“I think this team has rallied brilliantly the second half of the season,” said Ward, who jumped the fastest jump-off of the entire night aboard First Lady (Don Diarado x Lordanos), owned by Robin Parsky. “We’ve had some injuries, Amanda and I both. Cathleen came into the group a little later in the season. And we were really behind the eight-ball in August. Looking forward, it’s a strong team. I’m proud to be part of it and I thought all the horses performed great the last couple of weeks.”

Ward went head to head against a former student of his, Lillie Keenan (USA) who rode for the Trelawny Trailblazers. While Keenan was fast, she was just that slight margin behind Ward, who was seemingly unbeatable. The Trailblazers ended up in second on the podium while Team Eye Candy took the bronze medal.

“I was excited to get a chance to jump off against her. It was a little motivation, to be honest,” Ward said of going up against Keenan, who was aboard Agana van het Gerendal Z (Aganix du Seigneur x Topas). “I know if I looked [Lillie] in the eye the kamikaze might come out. I’m always proud to see people you’ve worked with go on and perform brilliantly. She’s going to be one of the great riders of all time when it’s all said and done, but it’s nice to still show them that I can get them.”

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo McLain Ward and First Lady. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

Driscoll just joined the Roadrunners recently, but it’s been nothing but winning form for her as a team rider.

“This is a bit of a unique format; it’s not something you see anywhere else,” Driscoll said of her experience so far. “It’s a good option for those 1.50m horses to really showcase them, and fortunately enough I have a great one at the moment. It’s been a fabulous class for [Flotylla]. I’m just really happy to be on this team and to be helpful in a couple of these events. Coming here with Desert Horse Park, on home turf, we had a good showing and a great team tonight.”

Driscoll was the first to really lay down a fast round, and it came as no surprise since she was the fastest jump-off rider during a recent leg in Greenwich, CT.

“Going as the first rider on our team in the second round, I wanted to give us a shot and I figured I had nothing to lose,” Driscoll said of her jump-off plan. “And Flotylla is a naturally fast horse, and a big mover. Everything came up just about the way I wanted it to. She’s so careful, I can really trust her on long gallops to the single fences. Amanda was able to take it home for us.”

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Cathleen Driscoll and Flotylla. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

“For my second team event I definitely had a lot to prove,” Derbyshire remarked of wanting to bring home the win for her team. “I had a little injury, but it felt good to be back again today on a great team with these two riders. It doesn’t get much better. I think everyone thought that and we all had to just ride the best we could and I think we did.”

The team behind DIHP has built not only a stellar park for the MLSJ finale, but also an incredibly strong team over the years that has finally earned its spot atop the podium in Thermal.

“These guys are great; you throw them a chance and next week we’re going to do the same thing,” said Steve Hankin, President and CEO of DIHP. “We went in this to help revitalize the sport and nothing makes me prouder than to see what it’s all about. In every regard, everyone’s been thrilled with the way the place looks. Most importantly, the ring rides amazingly. They can go as fast as they can and not worry about anything. It’s been an amazing week so far here and tomorrow night will be a big event. We’re really excited about it and couldn’t feel better about where we are.”

Both Ward and Driscoll are returning visitors to the horse park, and for Driscoll it’s her first time competing at the venue.

“I actually was out here a few years ago and I was grooming, so to come back out here as a rider now is different,” she remarked of her move into the Grand Prix Arena and into the winner’s circle. “But it’s fun to see the changes this venue has undergone in the last few years. They’ve done a beautiful job. It’s really quite a stunning venue. It’s something we look on to going forward in the calendar for years to come. They really put on a great show.”

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Amanda Derbyshire and Otto BH. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

Ward is no stranger to the West Coast, despite primarily residing on the East Coast. “I’ve actually always come West and supported the big events for a number of years,” he said of why he felt passionate about joining the DIHP Roadrunners. “My mother was from San Francisco so I have family here. I enjoy competing here. When Major League started, Steve and his partners recruited me. I’m thrilled to be back part of this team. I think the people behind this Roadrunners team have great intentions and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

The Roadrunners’ momentum will carry them into the final week of Desert Holiday and MLSJ, when they’ll contend for the overall season title on Saturday night, December 9. It will be a tough catch going up against the Trailblazers with their lead, but with the same roster going in for a second week in a row, their confidence will be high.

Saturday night, December 2, is the feature event of Desert Holiday 1, the $1 Million CSI5* Coachella Cup Grand Prix, presented by Brown Advisory, under the lights.


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