McLain Ward continued to add victories to the owner partnership of himself, Bob Russell and Marilla Van Bueren as he won on the trio’s Noche De Ronda in the featured class of the first day of the final week at the Winter Equestrian Festival, the $37,000 1.45m CSI5*.
So far the star of the season for the owners had been Catoki – the horse McLain describes as an ‘adrenaline junkie’ and when in competition mode is not ridden, unless he is competing.
Noche De Ronda, meanwhile, has had a quiet start to the year until yesterday when McLain and the 13-year-old black Oldenburg mare finished the course fault-free and with a time of 30.81 seconds as action at the Winter Equestrian Festival returned to the grass of the Stadium Derby Field.
Bob, was briefly left speechless by the win, but when he found the words he simply said: “That was great”.
“She is just coming back from an injury she got last year,” said McLain, who had nursed the mare back into action, previously jumping round in the international ring to finish clear with time faults.
“We thought we would give her one more time out on this field this season, and she seems to be feeling quite well,” he said.
Course designer Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge made full use of the large field for the two-phase course that posed 15 obstacles including several double combinations as well as a water obstacle.
For McLain, the victory, over 53 of his peers, came at one particular place on the track. “I think where we took over was when we did the inside slice to the double combination,” he said. “If it had been a single it wouldn’t have been that challenging, but with it being a combination it was definitely risky. She’s also got a huge stride that I use to my advantage out here. It was a huge loss not having her in our string last year, but she looks like she has a good year ahead of her.”
Taking time to heal a horse is a subject close to Bob’s heart. “That’s one of those things, we old-timers try to tell the new people coming along,” he said. “When the horses need some time off, you’ve got to give it to them. We practiced what we preached with ‘Ronda’ and the results speak for themselves.”
Second-to-last to go, Sweden’s Petronella Andersson claimed the runner-up title with Nithard Van De Peerdenhoeve, the combination landing clear in 30.99 seconds.
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