The country’s top show jumpers have arrived at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and in a fitting fashion eight-time Grand Prix of Devon winner McLain Ward claimed the first two Open Jumper victories. In the first Open Jumper class, he piloted the 15-year-old Hanoverian mare HH Ashley to the fastest double clear effort during the five-horse jump-off for owners Double H Farm of Wellington, Florida. He followed it up with a victory in the $10,000 Open Jumper Speed class aboard HH Best Buy, also owned by Double H Farm.
McLain Ward and HH Ashley
“It’s a great way to start off Devon,” smiled Ward. “Ashley is a wonderful horse and she’s actually been jumping really well lately – a little bit of four-faultitis, so it was nice for her to have a little more luck tonight and have a win.”
Twenty-three entries showed over the opening track, and Ward was the pathfinder with HH Ashley and the first to return for the jump-off. With a faultless round in 38.181 seconds, they set the pace to beat.
Switzerland’s Beat Mandli came close with the Grant Road Partners’ Celina, clearing the course in 38.308 seconds, which would be good enough for second place. Sarah Wayda was next with Faroukh, but the pair lowered the height of a vertical for four faults in 41.213 seconds for fifth place.
Adrienne Sternlicht also had four faults with Raia D’Helby, but was a bit faster in 38.638 for fourth place. The third place ribbon went to the last pair on course, Peter Leone with Lionshare Farm’s Wayfarer. They were clear over the track , but a time of 38.739 seconds would put them behind Ward and Mandli in the event sponsored by Herr’s.
“HH Ashley is a fast horse, so that makes it a little bit easier,” explained Ward. “I thought I had a nice cut on the yellow vertical, but she’s also just quick naturally.”
The $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon is scheduled for Thursday evening, and while Ward plans to compete with HH Ashley and his World Equestrian Games partner Rothchild, he also aimed for the win tonight.
“Her job, more than anything, is to win classes,” noted Ward. “My plan tonight was to try to be competitive with her and set Rothchild up for the grand prix with a little more of a training round. Going along with her doesn’t really hurt her for the grand prix. It kind of gets her in gear and gets her jumping across the fences a little bit.”
HH Ashley was injured in early 2013, but Ward had confidence that she would make it back to the winner’s circle. “It’s my second season with her,” he said. “She had been injured and been out for several years, and I asked the Harrisons if I could have an extra shot to bring her back with my team, and they did an incredible job. She’s had two great seasons. We felt she had a few good years left in her, and it’s really great to see her back in the sport and doing it happily.”
In 2012, the two-time Grand Prix of Devon winner and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Sapphire was retired by Ward at the Devon Horse Show, and this year the event will be named after the incredible mare, making the event that much more special for Ward as he competes with HH Ashley and Rothchild.
“It’s a really special thing – such a large event with so much history, such an important event on the schedule, so it’s a great honor,” he commented. “The pressure is the same all the time though.”
McLain Ward and HH Best Buy
In the final event of the night, Ward once again led the victory gallop, this time aboard HH Best Buy. Brandie Holloway with Hays Investment Corp’s Lucky Strike posted the first clear round in a time of 61.399, which would hold up for second place. Mandli was also faultless later in the order, but was more conservative with Grant Road Partners’ Antares F for fourth place in 70.806 seconds. Taking home third was his student Katie Dinan riding Bijou de Balou to a clear round in 68.108.
With the door cracked open for Ward, he raced through with HH Best Buy, an 8-year-old Holsteiner mare. They broke the beam at 58.985 seconds to take home the blue ribbon.
Ward concluded, “Devon is a great show. Phenomenal footing, the best atmosphere in the country and it’s a great event – I always really enjoy being here and trying to be successful here.”
The Open Jumpers will continue on Wednesday with two events, including the Hit & Hurry feature event in the evening. The Young Jumpers will also get underway with the 5-Year-Old and 6-Year-Old classes in the morning, followed by the 7& 8-Year-Old Jumpers later in the afternoon.
For more information about the Devon Horse Show and complete results please visitwww.DevonHorseShow.net.
Press release courtesy of Phelps Media Group/Rebecca Walton