Bridgehampton, N.Y.—Sept. 2
Main Road has just about the cutest expression a horse can manage when he canters into the ring with Shane Sweetnam. He’s all chrome and big pricked ears, and it doesn’t hurt that he jumps in fantastic style.
If you were judging on looks alone you’d think the horse is a perfect little angel as he galloped away with the win in the $50,000 Longines Cup at the Hampton Classic horse show with Shane Sweetnam. But allow Sweetnam to set the record straight.
“He’s a pain in the butt,” Sweetnam said with a laugh. “Even when you flat him he just likes to play, and he’s his own mind. He has a lot of quality and in the ring he’s really an unbelievable jumper, and he’s always been that way, so you sort of try to meet him halfway.”
Main Road certainly made it clear he was worth the effort in Saturday’s big class at the Hampton Classic—the gelding and Sweetnam were up against McLain Ward on a very stylish jumping new ride for Ward, Cartouche, and Ward tried hard to catch Sweetnam in the jump-off but he couldn’t manage it.
“I always say [Main Road] reminds me of Rothchild,” Sweetnam said, referring to one of Ward’s other rides (also a quirky chestnut gelding). “He’s very similar, but when it comes to jumping he gives you everything he’s got.”
The Alan Wade-designed course demanded everything Main Road had to offer—the track proved challenging as seven horses retired on course and only six of the start field of 51 advanced to the short course.
“That was the sternest Saturday I’ve seen in a while here,” Sweetnam said. “As soon as I walked it I was thinking there weren’t going to be so many clear. The combination was tough and the time was just tight enough that people had to move.”
When it came to the jump-off, Sweetnam was kicking himself from the day prior to not repeat a mistake that cost him a rail on Friday.
“I wasn’t very happy with myself, I made the mistake yesterday that I got carried away watching everyone else instead of doing what I knew he was good at,” Sweetnam said. “So today I knew I could be quick from 1 to 2 and quick back to the second to last, so I just stuck to my plan and trusted how fast he was.”
As for Ward, he was going for the win but he was also testing out the wheels on his new ride (he literally just bought the horse from Colombian rider Jorge Barrera on Friday of this week).
“It’s the first jump-off I’ve ever done with the horse so I didn’t know what to expect and I was thrilled with him. He was a little bit all over the place, but he’s an incredible jumper,” Ward said. “The horse is extremely careful, it’s actually a bit ridiculous—you can see the faster I go to the jumps the higher he jumps.
“I don’t have the rideabilty where I want it, I’m not sure what bridle to ride it in yet, but it’s an exciting horse,” Ward continued. “The quality is fantastic and he’s learning fast, so I’m quite excited about him. Certainly this was a bit of an unexpected result this quick.”
Important links: All the Chronicle’s Hampton Classic coverage | full results from the show | live-streaming