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‘Phenomenal for the future of the sport’: McLain Ward praises up-and-coming U.S. rivals after grand prix win

McLain Ward (USA) capped off the first week of competition at the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with top honors in the feature class, the $75,000 Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix.

On Sunday, January 10, the pair jumped the only double clear effort of the day to claim the title after four speedy entries went through to the jump-off from a field of 30 entries.

Ward and Catoki, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Marilla van Beuren, Bob Russell and Ward moved swiftly across the shortened track set by Eric Hasbrouck (USA) to set the tone for the remaining entries with a fault-free time of 36.846 seconds.

Last to go in the jump-off was Canada’s Erynn Ballard, with two big wins under her belt over the past week. A rail at the second to last jump on course proved to be the difference this time around, landing her in the runner up position in 36.994 seconds with Ilan Ferder’s 10-year-old mare Kamilla D.

It was 16-year-old Grace Debney of Hampden, MA, who produced the first clear effort of the day with Temple Equestrian’s 10-year-old mare Zarina de Vidau, in just her third career Grand Prix. The youngster was the first to return in the jump-off as well, finishing with just one knockdown in 37.126 seconds to round out the top three.

The remaining competitor in the jump-off was Nick Dello Joio (USA) on Gelvera, a 10-year-old KWPN mare owned by Hi Hopes Farm, LLC. They had four faults in the jump-off, and with a time of 37.652 seconds, finished fourth.

For Ward, the victory with Catoki was a positive step at the end of the opening week of the Winter Equestrian Festival after a difficult outing in Thursday’s Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round.

“You just try to slow him down sometimes,” he said. “He goes every time to win. Sometimes when you always go to win the class, it can blow up a little bit once in a while. He’s been a great campaign winner for us and so competitive. I felt like if I rode well, he would perform well today.”

In most cases, Ward sticks to his own game plan but after a fiery start to the week by Ballard, her success crossed his mind.

“I’ve actually come behind her in both jump-offs, and I think I tried a little too hard to beat her,” he said. “I thought about that a little bit last night, actually. Catoki, he’s either going to win or be close, particularly at this 1.50m level. He’s a real tiger.”

Erynn Ballard returns to the podium

While Ballard has experienced a great deal of success throughout her career, her results from this past week at the Winter Equestrian Festival sit near the top of her long list of accomplishments.

“I had a good week two years ago, at Longines Masters in New York. I won the speed challenge and was third in the grand prix, but you never forget weeks like this,” she stated. “You know that you’re not going to have them every time. You certainly can’t take them for granted.”

For Debney, it was also a week filled with success including a win in Sunday morning’s $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior Jumper Classic, presented by Griffis Residential followed by her third-place finish in the Grand Prix. Her goal for WEF 2021 is to continue to be consistent and she’s certainly off to a rapid start.

“It definitely has built up my confidence,” said Debney. “I didn’t have such a great round early on Thursday in the [WEF] Challenge [Cup], but I think that really honestly helped me prepare for this class a little bit because I don’t like to come in too confident. I think me and this horse’s relationship has come very far. [Last year at WEF], I was jumping low juniors. We’ve definitely come a long way so it feels really good that we’ve done so well today.”

For Ward, it’s exciting to be surrounded by up-and-coming United States show jumping talent. When asked about the bright future of many of the young American riders competing at WEF, he beamed with pride.

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “It’s phenomenal for the future of the sport. It’s very rewarding for myself. I’m actually a little bit involved with Grace’s situation. Lillie [Keenan], Adrienne [Sternlicht], Lucy Deslauriers; I have a pretty incredible group of young ladies around our operation that I hope are learning, benefiting, and flourishing with our support. I always tell them, as much as they get out if it, I also find energy from working with them and seeing their ambition and young view of the sport. It keeps you hungry.”

The Bainbridge Companies has been a sponsor at the Winter Equestrian Festival for 21 years. Chairman and CEO Richard Schechter congratulated all of the riders on a fantastic performance in this circuit’s opening Grand Prix.

Earlier in the day, Selcuk Koksalan of Wellington, FL, captured the win in the $10,000 Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic aboard Carla. Grace Debney piloted Boheme De La Roque to the top of the podium in the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior Jumper Classic, presented by Griffis Residential.

Final Results: $75,000 Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix

1 CATOKI: 2009 Holsteiner gelding by Catoki x Cartello B

MCLAIN WARD (USA), Marilla van Beuren, Bob Russell & McLain Ward: 0/0/36.846

2 KAMILLA D: 2011 SCSL mare by Kashmir Van’t Schuttersho x Hyacinthe Vd Padenborre ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 0/4/36.994

3 ZARINA DE VIDAU: 2011 CDE mare by Diamant de Semilly x Carina XXXVii Ch GRACE DEBNEY (GBR), Temple Equestrian, LLC : 0/4/37.126

4 GELVERA: 2011 KWPN mare by Quality Time Tn x Wunderful Vera NICHOLAS DELLO JOIO (USA), Hi Hopes Farm, LLC: 0/4/37.652

5 CAZAAN: 2012 Holsteiner stallion by Casall x Zamira M Iii LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm, LLC: 1/84.554

6 DURANGO VDL: 2008 KWPN stallion by Zirocco Blue VDL x Narona ASHLEY FLEISCHHACKER (USA), Ashland Show Stables, LLC: 3/86.290

7 BULLRUN’S ALMIGHTY: 2008 Hanoverian gelding by Caspar x Quidame de Revel JORDAN COYLE (IRL), Bull Run Jumpers Six, LLC: 3/86.294

8 ZAZU: 2008 BWP stallion by Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Diablesse De Muze AUSTIN KRAWITT (CAN), AES Equestrian: 3/86.889

9 BELLISSIMO Z: 2009 ZANG mare by Bamako De Muze x C’est Elle Z ASHLEY VOGEL (USA) Ashley Vogel: 4/80.128

10 DEAUVILLE S: 2006 HOL gelding by Diamant De Semilly x Touch Ofclass TANNER KOROTKIN (USA) Castlewood Farm, Inc: 4/80.908

11 IDEAL: 2012 SWB gelding by Cardento 933 x Paskitt SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL) Sweet Oak Farm & Seabrook, LLC: 4/82.147

12 MILLIONINMIND: 2007 ISH gelding by ARD VDL Douglas EMILY WARD (GBR), Steven Barnes: 4/82.589

‘He’s a spoiled brat but that’s what makes him great’

On the final day of competition for the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) Premiere Week, the Marshall & Sterling Adult Amateur Hunter Older Section B wrapped up in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring. Chris Brown piloted his own Rebel to the championship with two firsts, two seconds, and a sixth-place ribbon.

Brown, of Boynton Beach, FL, purchased Rebel last year and has been developing his relationship with the gelding since. The pair trains with Kimberly Stewart and GlenWillow Farm.

“He’s got his own personality. He is a spoiled brat and wants attention all the time,” said Brown of the eight-year-old Canadian Warmblood by Bon Balou. “That’s what makes him a great show horse because he is a little bit of a fighter and he wants to always do well.”

The first day of the division took place in the South Ring, which Brown described as challenging, but was still very pleased with Rebel’s performance.

“It was a good learning experience for him,” he explained. “He is green and it is his first time showing at WEF, so we were very happy.”

The duo won the under saddle on the second day of competition in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring and received a score of 84 to win an over fences class.

“Today was much more my ride and his ride; we got to flow a little more,” commented Brown. “The courses are absolutely beautiful, they changed the footing, the ring is gorgeous, and the jumps are beautiful. What is not to love?”

The reserve championship in the division went to Kristen Baran, of Toronto, ON, on her own Caramia. Baran rode Caramia to a first, three seconds, and a fourth-place finish.

Hunter, jumper, and equitation competition will continue with week one of the Winter Equestrian Festival, starting on Wednesday, January 13, and running through Sunday, January 17.

The first week of international jumper competition will feature the $37,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 1, $25,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Jumper Classic, and Saturday night under the lights with the $137,000 Wellington Regional Medical Center Grand Prix CSI3*.

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