Friday, Apr. 19, 2024

Revenge Is Sweet For Ward At Syracuse

It’s tough to beat Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui, but McLain Ward and Phillipa pull it off by fractions of a second.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I had a shot to beat Kent [Farrington] tonight,” McLain Ward said. “I go week in and week out trying to beat him, and I can’t. I mean this in the most complimentary way, but what Kent wins is absolutely staggering."
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It’s tough to beat Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui, but McLain Ward and Phillipa pull it off by fractions of a second.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I had a shot to beat Kent [Farrington] tonight,” McLain Ward said. “I go week in and week out trying to beat him, and I can’t. I mean this in the most complimentary way, but what Kent wins is absolutely staggering.”

But Ward did beat Farrington, by less than .2 seconds. He rode Phillipa to an inspired jump-off round to top the $75,000 Budweiser World Cup Qualifier of Syracuse CSI-W, relegating Farrington and Up Chiqui to second place.

Great Britain’s William Whitaker, on his first visit to the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse  Tournament, Oct. 31-Nov. 4 in Syracuse, N.Y., claimed third aboard Arielle.

The nine-horse jump-off shaped up to be a real race. Before Up Chiqui and Farrington cantered into the ring as the fifth to jump off, William Whitaker’s uncle, Michael Whitaker, led with a clear round in 36.28 seconds.

But Farrington set out to show just how he and the cat-like Up Chiqui have won a dozen grand prix classes

Syracuse Tidbits

•    Lauren Hough won the $50,000 Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup, a three-phase competition that concluded the Syracuse show. Seven open jumper riders qualified for the class based on their results throughout the week.

The seven competed in Phase 1, a speed class. Their time for that class became their score, and they added faults to that depending on their perfor- mances in Phase 2, a four-bar class, and Phase 3, a grand prix-format class. They could use two horses for the phases, which all run one right after another.
       
Hough placed third in the speed leg aboard Strandgarden’s Mercedes Z. Beezie Madden, the defending champion, won Phase 2, the four-bar, on Judgement,
clearing 6’4″ in the final round.

The competition was tight between the two before Phase 3, and they each incurred 1 time fault in jumping clean over the course, but Hough’s point total was lower, and the win was hers. Hough rode Quick Study for Phases 2 and 3.

•    In the Empire Tractor Ride-and-Drive, the open jumper riders negotiate a course, then hop off their horses in the ring, and hop onto a small tractor, complete with a manure spreader attached. They have to drive the tractor through a course of cones, then back the tractor and spreader into a parking spot. Beezie Madden drove her tractor with abandon and was quite fast, but her parking skills were somewhat questionable.

•    The CN Gambler’s Choice gave the riders a chance to express themselves in costume. The crowd got to see Jimmy and Danielle Torano dressed up as Hansel and Gretel, Lauren Hough compete as Wonder Woman, and McLain Ward ride as a French maid, complete with an ample bosom.

this year. They twisted and turned around the serpentining first half of the jump-off track, and then they
galloped flat-out the length of the ring to the last vertical.

The clock flashed a time of 34.50 seconds, and the crowd went wild. It looked as if they’d done it again.
William, 18, went next, and he appeared to be right on target to challenge Farrington’s time. But on the long gallop to the last vertical, he took a few tugs. 

“To be honest, it was my fault. I hung out too far to that last jump,” he said. “I’ve had the last fence down a few times this year, so I kind of chickened out. I should have kept going. But my mare’s a quick mare, and I went as fast as I thought I needed to go.”

His clean round in 35.43 seconds fell just short. Lauren Hough also made a concerted effort aboard Casadora, but was just fractions slower, finishing clean with a 35.80-second time that would be good enough for fourth.

When Phillipa and Ward returned as the last to go, Ward knew what he had to do. A week earlier, on Larioso, he’d conceded the win to Farrington in the $65,000 Grand Prix de Penn National (Pa.) after he’d erred on the side of caution and slowed down to jump the last jump carefully.

“I certainly was kicking myself the whole way home from [the Pennsylvania National], wondering if I should have slowed down like I did,” Ward said.

There was no slowing down in Syracuse for Ward and Phillipa. They negotiated the twisting turns with economy, and then Ward let it all hang out on the way to the last vertical. Phillipa nipped up over it, the timers stopped at 34.36 seconds, and the crowd went wild yet again.

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“I really didn’t think I could beat Kent tonight. It’s an absolute compliment that I try so hard to beat him,” he said.

Farrington knew he’d left the door open a crack. “To the second-to-last jump, the Swedish oxer, I just didn’t get there quite how I wanted to,” he said. “I went wide and had one extra stride, and that slowed me down.”
For Ward, the win was not only sweet revenge for his defeat at the Pennsylvania National, but also a sign that Phillipa, a 9-year-old, Dutch Warmblood mare, is every bit the horse he expected her to be.

“This is an absolutely phenomenal horse. She’s a little young, but my father and Francois Mathy found this horse and believed in her from the beginning,” he said.

Phillipa jumped her first grand prix class in May and won a $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix at HITS on the Hudson IV (N.Y.) in August. She’s also placed fourth in the $100,000 Wachovia Securities American Gold Cup CSI-W (Ohio) and sixth in the $50,000 Hagyard Equine Medical Institute CSI-W (Ky.) in September.
“Debbie Dolan Sweeney and her family just purchased the horse so that I can ride her through the next Olympic Games,” Ward said. “The horse is still on the market, but I can keep her a little longer. I have never ridden another horse like her in my life.”

Comparisons to Ward’s other talented chestnut mare—his Olympic and World Equestrian Games mount Sapphire—are inevitable.

“Obviously, Sapphire has gone and done it all. She’s gone to the big events and performed wonderfully, so if this horse turns out to have the record Sapphire has, that’d be great, but I think she’s actually an even more athletic horse,” Ward said.

“I’ve never felt a horse jump so easily,” he added. “She plays with the jumps, like she’s having fun. She’s very nice to ride—she just lacks a little experience. She looks around a little bit, but that’s because it’s all new to her. She makes up for that with her ability. She has everything she needs to be an Olympic gold-medal horse, so my family and my team are really excited.”

Rulanda Rules

Carolyn Kelly, 19, has had great grand prix-level results with Rulanda this year, winning the $75,000 Evergreen Invitational (Wis.), where she actually out-ran Farrington and Up Chiqui in the jump-off.

But in the fall, she returned to her studies as a sophomore at Princeton University (N.J.), and slowed down her show schedule. Syracuse was the only indoor show she attended, and she made her time there count, winning all three high junior/amateur-owner jumper classes. 

The final class of the division at Syracuse, the high junior/amateur-owner grand prix, ran in a World Cup Final format. Riders were assigned points based on their placings in the two previous classes in the division, and they returned for two rounds in the grand prix carrying those point totals. With two blues to her name, Kelly returned with 0 faults, leading the class.

A Great Finale

Elizabeth Lubrano’s week at Syracuse included consistent, steady rounds to finish second behind Kimberly McCormack in the ASPCA Maclay Finals (see p. 98). And she capped the weekend with a win in the medium junior/amateur-owner grand prix aboard Lennox.

“This was such a great way to end my junior career,” said Lubrano, 18. From Glenmoore, Pa., Lubrano deferred entrance to Penn State this year in order to focus on her riding. She plans to start school in June.

Lubrano’s still learning the ropes in the jumper ring, since she just started when she bought Lennox in April.

“I was a little timid in the beginning, but now I love it,” she said. “Originally, I had a little trouble with Lennox because he’s really aggressive. I really had to learn to work with him instead of against him.”

Trainer Max Amaya of the Beacon Hill team assisted Lubrano in working through the issues with Lennox, who is just 8.

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“Max helped me a great amount with flatwork, and Lennox has really come a long way,” she said. “His rideability has definitely improved. We also had to learn what his strengths are and how to get to them. He goes much better the more you leave him alone.”

Lubrano has ridden with the team at Beacon Hill—Amaya, Frank and Stacia Madden, and Krista Freundlich—for five years. She started riding as a 5-year-old and spent a number of years  competing locally with Denise O’Connor.

“She really taught me the basics, and that’s where I fell in love with the equitation,” Lubrano said. “I showed a great pony in the short stirrup equitation and learned a lot
from it.”

Lubrano’s sister, Jacqueline, 16, also rides with Beacon Hill and placed sixth at the Pessoa/ USEF Medal Finals (Pa.).

After buying the pony Brighton Day Glo from Holly Hill Farm, Lubrano rode with them for a while and then with Jeff Ayers. “

Those years really opened my eyes to this whole world [of the A-rated circuit],” she said. “I competed at Zone 2 Finals a few times and came close to winning but never did it,” she reflected.

“My whole life, it seems like, I’ve been close to
winning but not quite there. But that’s one of the things that riding has taught me—that you stick with it and be patient and eventually it pays off.”

A rail in the first round put her total at 4, but second-placed Katherine Newman carried 4.5 faults into the last two rounds. Newman and Costa Sur had a rail in Round 2, dropping them to a tie for third. Natalie Johnson and Jeremy jumped clean all the way through the week, including the two rounds of the grand prix, but their low placing in the speed class had left them carrying 6 faults, so they settled for second to Kelly.

“One of my strong points is my consistency, especially since I know this horse so well now, so I really enjoyed the format,” she said.

Rulanda and Kelly had their first taste of international competition last year, when they helped the U.S. team win the Nations Cup in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November. Trainer Chris Kappler found Rulanda, 13, a Saxon Anhalt mare (Rudelsburg—Koralle), for Kelly.

“This was her first indoor show this year, and it was an eyeful for her,” Kelly said with a laugh. “I flatted her every morning, just trying to get her to relax.”

Not Leaving Without It

Rachel Udelson, 16, just started her jumper career this summer, when she bought Ontario. But she quickly caught on, and at Syracuse she topped the low junior/amateur-owner grand prix.

Udelson and Ontario had been second in both earlier classes, so she was “really determined today,” she said.

“I didn’t want to leave here without a win, so I really went for it,” she said. “He’s got a big stride, and the course was great for galloping, so it worked out.”

Former trainers Ken and Emily Smith found Ontario, a 10-year-old warmblood, for Udelson in July. She now trains with Missy Clark and John Brennan and hopes to move up to the high divisions next year.

“He’s my perfect ride,” Udelson said of Ontario. “He’s very quiet, and I like to be able to push him, but he’s also very responsive.” Udelson, Cleveland, Ohio, traveled to Syracuse to compete in the ASPCA Maclay Finals (see p. 98) as well, but she didn’t make it past the first round.

“My horse was really good, but I was a little disappointed in myself,” she said of the Maclay.

Molly Sorge

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