Wellington, FL - February 8, 2014 - McLain Ward and Dulien Van De Smeets returned to the Ridge at Wellington's 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix to defend their turf, but they were met with a challenger as the fifth week of the series got underway. Sarah Segal and Tilghman rose to the test today, riding the jump off round with blazing speed. They rode to a double clear effort in 32.574 seconds, proving untouchable and taking the victory.
Roosje Brouwer took an early lead with Cisco's Zidane as the sun rose over Wolfstone Stables. She guided the gelding around the Pierre Jolicouer designed course for a clear first round, then riding to the first of only four double clear rounds. Christine McCrea and Win For Life posted a conservative time of 38.703 seconds, but had one rail down. Karyn Foley and Falco also posted a four-fault round, but their time of 43.457 seconds proved too careful for a top three finish. It seemed as though Brouwer's time would hold as the day continued; however, McLain Ward would soon challenge her time of 36.150 seconds.
Ward navigated the first round track with straightforwardness, riding new mount Dulien Van De Smeets to the top of the leader board with a jump off time of 34.031 seconds. Ward used a forward pace to move the mare through the turns, he negated an inside turn that left hope for competitors. His time was fast, but not entirely untouchable.
"It was a good course. I thought it was actually a little bit bigger than last week, but it was in a little easier ring, going in the sand. She went great out there and did great today," Ward said. "We are going to keep moving her along, and hopefully jump her in some grand prix soon enough."
Ward continued, "It is nice to be able to compete for good prize money, not going up against 200 horses running around like maniacs. If you are trying to develop a horse in the 1.40m division, it is very hard at the Winter Equestrian Festival, you almost need a ringer in those classes now."
Emmanuel Camilli took his turn at the track with Zacca Zoeloe, chasing Ward's time. He was able to guide the bay gelding to a time of 33.617 seconds, but a rail fell at fence 7 to make him the fastest of the four-faulters. It wasn't until Sarah Segal took the reins aboard Tilghman that defeat seemed plausible.
Segal posted a speedy first round course, and continued into the jump off. Using Tilghman quick foot speed, she covered the ground with seconds to spare, breaking the beam in 32.574 seconds. She was a full two seconds quicker than Ward's leading time.
"I got him as a 6-year-old, and he is 10 now, so I have had him for a while. He won a bunch of these grand prix last year, and we came so close to winning the finale, but he had a rail down at the last fence of the jump off," Segal explained. "He is a fantastic 1.40m horse. This is a niche for him. He can jump it really easily, and is really quick on his feet. Even if you go slow, he goes fast."
Segal continued, "It is a little hard to get the context for if McLain would be able to hold the lead, but I tried to follow his track. My horse is just a little quicker. We made the inside turns, and although I added a stride to the last fence, my horse is so quick that I knew we had it. This is his game, he's a great jumper and very quick in the air.
Ben Meredith took the fourth place finish with Bernadien Van Westuur, jumping clear, but not quite fast enough with a time of 36.444 seconds. Ward finished in the second place position, while Brouwer completed the day with the third place award.
The stakes are increasing each week as top riders, amateur and professional, vie for their invitation to the $24,750 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix Series Finale on Saturday, March 22, 2014, as well as the coveted Leading Rider Bonus. The Wellington Turf Tour will return to the International Polo Club Palm Beach next week for its Wednesday and Friday events.