Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 5
There was something different about the look on McLain Ward’s face after he crossed the finish line in the jump off with HH Carlos in the $50,000 Longines Qualifier CSI***, held at the CP Wellington Masters (Fla.).
Always a fast and competitive rider, but usually a stoic one, Ward cracked a big smile as he pulled Carlos up—he may have gone first in the jump-off with 10 riders to follow him, but Ward correctly guessed his round would not be beaten.
“I don’t often think I’ve shut the door,” Ward said with another smile at the press conference following his win. “I know that there are people that can get you, like Mr. Millar, but I had a pretty good feeling that I had done at least a good job.”
That is putting it modestly—Canada’s Ian Millar took second to Ward, and he was more than 2 seconds slower.
“I was really going for it, and I was quite impressed, and not in a good way, the difference between first and second,” Millar said with a smile. “I didn’t get that close to him.”
A speedy ground-covering stride on HH Carlos paired with bold distance decisions from Ward made for a nearly perfect jump-off round.
“He’s fast, and other than [fence] 1 to 2, it was one of those rounds were everything just showed up out of stride,” Ward said. “It just worked really well. I love actually to go earlier in the jump-off, especially with a fast horse. I kind of put what other people do out of my head, and I just really ride my round. Sometimes when I’m trying to be too tactical I make a mistake.”
It’s been an excellent two days at the CP Wellington Masters for owner Hunter Harrison’s Double H Farm. Ward won Thursday’s $35,000 Welcome Stakes with HH Carlos, which Quentin Judge placed third in with HH Whisky Royale, and when Ward pulled another win on HH Carlos out Friday in the $50,000 Longines Qualifier CSI***, Maggie McAlary took third with HH Ciske van Overis.
“The horses are jumping well, these horses are fresh, which is nice,” Ward said of the Double H Farms mounts. “Unlike a lot of people, we give our horses a long rest in the winter, like Ian [Millar] does. It’s kind of a dying art I have to say. There’s a show every week on the calendar, in every city, so people just show.”
Ward doesn’t enjoy the break nearly as much as his horses do.
“I have to say that every year I come here, and I start the first week or two, I go home a little bit upset, and I feel rusty. I moan at my wife that I’m out of sync, and we’re never going to win again,” Ward said, cracking another smile. “Normally, a few weeks later, things round into form, and it goes OK. It gives me confidence that that’s the right thing to do for the horses. Year in and year out, it normally pays us back.”
This year marks the very first Longines FEI World Cup qualifier held at the Jacobs’ family Deeridge Farm in Wellington, Fla., and Millar voiced his appreciation at being able to attend an event like the CP Wellington Masters just down the road from the CSI**** being held at the Winter Equestrian Festival in the same week.
“It’s fantastic, the effort that has been made by the Jacobs family, for the right reasons—they made the effort as sportsmen,” Millar said. “Yes, everything in life has to have some sort of commercial foundation underwriting, but this really is about the sport, for the sport, by sportsman. That’s very, very much appreciated I would say by all of the riders.”
Ward echoed Millar’s compliments of the new show venue and what it adds to the already established competitions in Wellington.
“This week I just showed here, but I obviously show at WEF a lot. I think there’s room for multiple venues and different levels,” Ward said. “Everything has it’s strengths. I think it makes for great sport for the athletes, for the horses, for the owners, for the spectators, for everybody.”
See full results of the class.
Check back with the Chronicle on Sunday for coverage of the $200,000 Longines CSI*** FEI World Cup qualifier!