American Ward continues winning streak at Spruce Meadows, claiming CP Grand Prix
You’re only as good as your horse, they say in show jumping.
In McLain Ward’s case, he’s as good as a whole bunch of horses, which is to say pretty terrific.
Ward, who has had exceptional success during the first two weeks of jumping in the Spruce Meadows summer series, notched another one on Sunday afternoon, winning the $210,000 CP Grand Prix on the final day of the Continental tournament.
Ward, astride Rothchild, held off challenges by four other horse-rider combinations in the jump-off to claim the $70,000 top purse. Second spot went to Canada’s Yann Candele with Showgirl, while his countryman Eric Lamaze was third on Powerplay.
“Most of them are coming off of two big weeks of jumping,” Ward said of his competitors. “I was lucky with Rothchild, I have a deep enough string that I was able to save him. I certainly think that helped me. A very difficult, very challenging course, but I think fair and I thought today was a really well-rounded test.”
The original course, designed by American Anthony D’Ambrosio, had its way with the first half of the field, with a handful of riders deciding not to finish. Candele and Showgirl — the 18th twosome up — were the first to fashion a clear round.
“I think it was a very technical course,” described Lamaze. “It was really busy; it just came very quickly, very technical. The horses really needed to pay attention today. That was the difference.”
Candele was the first to take on the jump-off course and he and Showgirl put in a yeoman effort, going clear in a time of 45.77. But the veteran Ward, well-versed in the art of speed and precision, manoeuvered the 13-year-old Rothchild around the track in a time of 43.291, and that time would stand.
“I was lucky,” the 38-year-old from Brewster, N.Y., explained. “Always going first in a jump-off is tough. I was lucky to see him go and I thought he took a pretty good route. But like I said, his horse looked like she was just slowing a little bit as he was trying to press her on. Rothchild is a hot little horse so I felt I could do the same track and be quicker and put the pressure on the ones behind me.”
Ward is benefiting from a strong stable of partners, but Rothchild is one horse he can turn to with great confidence.
“It’s like they say, there’s no need like necessity,” he said. “I was a little short of horsepower and I needed him. I’m determined and he’s determined and we found a way to do it. He’s gotten better and better at it and probably I’ve gotten to believe in him more and more. The result is a more consistent performance at this level.”
The veteran Candele, who has been riding Showgirl less than a year, has found a nice partnership brewing.
“We’re pushing,” he noted, “so for her to be consistent is what we’re looking for, so so-far, so-good. We have a long way to go.”
Lamaze, third in the jump-off, tried to hurry his steed Powerplay over the CP planks, a jump that caused havoc in the first round, but the tight turn they took to get there was just too tight and down came the planks. They finished with four faults.
“I’m very happy with my horse,” said Lamaze, who has enjoyed a fine fortnight with Powerplay. “McLain had a very fast round. I felt I needed that turn and it’s what came up distance wise. At the end, I was too short. But that’s the risk you have to take in the jump-off.”
The Spruce Meadows summer circuit continues in two weeks with the Canada One.