It was a very emotional night at Alltech National Horse Show as McLain Ward piloted his top mount Antares F to victory during the Alltech $250,000 Grand Prix, benefitting the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. The win comes just days after the passing of his father, Barney Ward, who had been Ward's most important supporter. Ward rode through his grief to beat six others in the jump-off, as the first to compete on his speedy partner.
|McLain Ward and Antares F (Rebecca Walton/PMG photo)|
|Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20 (Rebecca Walton/PMG photo)|
Christine McCrea followed in second place aboard Romantovich Take One with the only other double clear effort, while the third place award went to Candice King and Whistler with a single time fault over the speed track.
“This has been the hardest week of my life,” admitted Ward. “My dad was my world. If I was right with my father, I was right with the world. My dad certainly had some flaws in his life, but he sacrificed an unbelievable amount for my family and me to live our dreams, and this is our dream. We shared the same dream,” he said with tears welling. “I owe a career and a life to what he provided for me and taught me to do. I didn’t know we would win today, but I knew we would go on and do well, that’s what he taught us to do in life. I think everyone knows how much I loved my father, and how much I am going to miss him. I loved him very, very much. I rode with a heavy heart today, but we forge on and do his dream.”
Ward certainly made his father proud tonight. Seven riders found the key to Richard Jeffery’s first round course during the World Cup Qualifying event. Ward was the first to do so with Antares F, owned by Grant Road Partners, and therefore the first to return for the short course. He was right on point with his Olympic mount, making a very sharp turn to a vertical-oxer double combination, and then opening up his gallop through the remaining obstacles. The strategy worked and they broke the beam at 48.48 seconds with all the rails in place, a score that would prove unbeatable.
“The turn to 6a felt rough; it was a very difficult jump off course,” said Ward after his victory. “There were tricky turns and strong riders coming behind me. Antares is an incredibly brave horse. He helped me out a great deal there, but after that the courses suited him and I could get a little bit of a gallop and let his stride take me home.”
One of those strong riders was Christine McCrea with Romantovich Take One, owned by Candy Tribble and the Windsor Show Stables. She managed to produce the only other faultless effort, but was just a touch off of the pace with a time of 49.81 seconds, after trying to figure out how to rollback to one of the single verticals. “There were a lot of different jumps in that area and I didn’t get a chance to see McLain go. That was as hard as I feel like I could go,” she noted. “I don’t think I could have gone too much faster.”
Candice King rode one of the more conservative routes on Whitsler, a young mount owned by Louisburg Farm. She left all the fences intact, but stopped the timers in 55.29 seconds and with a time allowed of 55 seconds, it resulted in a single time fault.
King was originally planning to ride Kismet 50, owned by Bellissimo LLC, but after an injury earlier in the week she decided to make a switch. “I was thrilled with Whistler’s performance,” she commented. “He’s a young and upcoming stallion, that has been a little bit of a process to get to this point. I spoke to the owners, and we decided to take a shot with him to night. It worked in my favor and I am quite excited.”
Saer Coulter also had time faults with Springtime, owned by Copernicus Stables. Although they cleared all the fences, their time of 56.81 seconds added two faults to their score for fourth place. Beezie Madden had one of the most exciting rounds with Abigail Wexner’s Simon as she cut the turn to the vertical and took a different approach to the combination. Unfortunately they lowered the height of the triple bar later in the course for four faults in 49.50 seconds for fifth.
Lauren Hough also had a single rail at the double combination after a big stumble cutting one of the turns with Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo. They clocked in at 50.99 seconds with four faults, which was good enough sixth place. Hillary Simpson rounded out the seven riders that advanced to the tiebreaker with Nopus Du Gue Joubert, owned by Quiet Hill Farm. The pair had errors at two fences for an eight-fault total.
Tonight’s other presentations included the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Jumper Rider Award and the Audi Leading Rider Award. Both were awarded to Lauren Hough and Christine McCrea, who tied for the prestigious honors.
At the end of the night, Alltech Founder Dr. Pearse Lyons stated, “This is incredible for us. It just reaffirms us being a title sponsor. For these riders to do what they have done this week, and what a week it has been, shows that professionals do come through.”
Ward added, “To Alltech and Dr. Pearse Lyons I want to say thank you. You can sense your passion directly involved in this. The riders appreciate it, the owners appreciate it, and I want to thank you for that. This is such an incredible facility; you don’t want to see a full facility not being utilized to its fullest potential. There is a very high level of competition for the international jumpers, it has a great infrastructure, and I think this team has done a great job.”
Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20 Blaze to Victory in $50,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic
Today’s star-studded line-up included the $50,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic presented by Pasmore Stables. The jump-off proved to be a nail biter as the crowd waited until the end of the 10-horse tiebreaker to see a clear round posted. The final test featured a wide oxer to an airy vertical, followed by a roll back to a single oxer and then a vertical-oxer double combination. Finally, riders had to gallop home through an oxer-vertical bending line headed towards the gate.
As each rider added faults to their docket it began to look like Alise Oken and Kaid Du Ry, owned by High Hopes Farm, might have a win under their belt when they posted a very fast time of 32.824 seconds. Unfortunately, they got a bit tight to the final vertical and rolled the top rail out of its cups, but as the fastest four-faulter ahead of five others it was great effort, that eventually landed them in third.
The first clear performance came from Meagan Nusz aboard Vesuvius, owned by Amalaya Investments as the second to last duo in the arena. Not only were they careful over the fences, but they were also quick across the ground. The pair sped through the turns and broke the beam at 33.120 seconds to take over the lead. Unfortunately, their time at the top was short-lived when Abigail McArdle took to the track with Cosma 20.
The reigning North American Junior Jumper Gold Medalist knew exactly what it would take to win with her talented mare and they were ready to take on the task. McArdle picked up a fast gallop to the first oxer and never let up. The pair flew over every fence, clearing it easily. Smooth but fast turns proved to be the key as they clocked in at a blazing 31.573, the fastest of the class with no faults at all. Their amazing effort earned them the lion’s share of the prize money, the $1,000 SSG Bonus, and the lead position during the victory gallop.
“I think a lot of people were getting rushed in the turns,” explained McArdle. “There were a lot of people going into that jump off. I think especially in a big money class with that many riders everyone was going for it. I think there were a lot of problems for everyone in the jump off; it was a great course. It was definitely a spectator class.”
The Show Jumping Hall of Fame Series Champions were also recognized today. Meagan Nusz led the Amateur-Owner Jumper ranks, while the leading title for the Junior Jumpers went to Charlotte Jacobs.
“I think it is a very nice award to receive,” said Nusz. “Throughout the year you put all of your hard work and effort into it. To be at the top in that list of riders is an incredible feeling. I think you do want to hit all of those shows that have the SJHF points because it is such an honor when you finish successfully at the end of the year.”
$250,000 ALLTECH GRAND PRIX CSI-W 1.60M
1 ANTARES F, MCLAIN WARD
2 ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE, CHRISTINE MCCREA
3 WHISTLER, CANDICE KING
4 SPRINGTIME, SAER COULTER
5 SIMON, BEEZIE MADDEN
6 QUICK STUDY, LAUREN HOUGH
7 NOPUS DU GUE JOUBERT, HILLARY SIMPSON
8 CORTEZ, NICOLA PHILIPPAERTS
9 UCEKO, KENT FARRINGTON
10 BARONEZ, KIRSTEN COE
11 AMARETTO D’ARCO, SHANE SWEETNAM
12 SASKIA 269, CARA RAETHER
$50,000 SJHF JR/AO GRAND PRIX 1.45M
1 COSMA 20, ABIGAIL MCARDLE
2 VESUVIUS, MEAGAN NUSZ
3 KAID DU RY, ALISE OKEN
4 VDL WARDORETTE, RACHEL UDELSON
5 SINATRA IV, MEG O’MARA
6 WETTER, CATHERINE TYREE
7 UBICO H, GABRIELLE BAUSANO
8 LAPACCO, WESLEY NEWLANDS
9 WINDE, KALVIN DOBBS
10 CORDINO, ELIZABETH PATZ
11 VIPER P., GREER HINDLE
12 OSCAR 72, LAUREN WARD