May 30—Devon, Pa.
Some riders have a special show, one where the stars align, and for McLain Ward, that show is Devon. With Rothchild, he picked up the top check in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix Of Devon, making it his eighth win.
“It’s always been an incredibly special place for me. There are some stops along the way [where] things go your way, and this has always been that kind of place for me. Not only is it an incredible venue with great tradition, but I think this is as good a crowd as any in the world and the best in North America,” said Ward.
Twenty-eight horses started the class in front of a sold-out crowd, and Ward was a favorite, earning the loudest cheers.
Rothchild, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Artos—Pitchounette Bosquetiau, Elegant De L’ile) owned by Sagamore Farms, has an unconventional jumping style with ears back and a sour look across his face, but he’s fast. He and Ward stopped the clock in the five-horse jump off at 33.56 seconds, edging out Andrew Welles and Boo Van Het Kastanjehof who finished in 35.81 seconds.
“He’s spicy as we know, but he’s a great competitor, and he’s really professional,” said Ward, 37. “He’s a little bit of a unique horse; you’ve got to meet him in the middle, but he keeps rewarding me. He’s kind of settled into his situation, and he’s getting more consistent. He’s slowly but surely racking up a lot of big grand prixs.”
Ward, Brewster, N.Y., was complimentary of course designer Olaf Petersen Jr.’s track. “I thought the course was great. Ollie’s a great course designer and a good friend. I think he builds as a horseman. I wish we would use him more in the United States because I think it makes sense, and I think he builds courses well up to the grand prix that’s still a challenging and exciting class,” he said.
For Welles, the Grand Prix of Devon marked his biggest result yet with Boo Van Het Kastanjehof, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve—Kacha VH Kastanjehof). “This is definitely the biggest result of my career, and it couldn’t come at a more exciting place. Coming to Devon, we’re all athletes, and a lot of the time we go to the grand prixs, and you have a 100, 200 people watching. To go in and you feel like you’re in a real stadium, and the feeling after you have success in that stadium is pretty amazing. I’m still on cloud nine after that round,” he said.
The 25-year-old said that the mare, owned by his father Peter Welles, put in her best effort in the electric atmosphere. “I knew I’d gone as well as I could. I told my friends as I came out the in-gate, ‘I’m about to get smoked!’ as McLain was walking in. But I couldn’t be happier with it,” he said. “She’s been second a bunch of times, always the bridesmaid, but I’ll take that any day. She really feeds off that energy. I actually like when there’s a clear round ahead of me because it gets her amped up, and you can feel her.”
Devin Ryan rode No Worries into third place (36.12) and also competed with Zosja. “I just moved these two up to do the bigger 1.50-meters. Old Salem [N.Y.] was their first real 1.50-meter. They came here, and the atmosphere and the crowd, it’s awesome. [No Worries] is such a naturally fast horse, so I’ve gotten myself into trouble before thinking too fast and having a rail, so I said, ‘Be smooth, be nice and try to put in a clean round,’ ” he said.
Callan Solem VDL Torlando had a rail and finished in a time of 35.97 for fourth place, and Beezie Madden and Vanilla took fifth.
A Piece Of Cake
Donna Struve made her trip to Devon from Bristol, Wisc., a worthwhile one as her Sabrina earned the Best Young Horse title and topped the 2-year-old Other Than Thoroughbred Fillies class.
Handled by Bucky Reynolds, the Hanoverian mare by Cabardino is out of Struve’s beloved adult amateur hunter Tapestry.
Reynolds first saw Sabrina last year, and he handled her in the Sallie B. Wheeler/U.S. National Hunter Breeding Championships, where she earned the Best Young Horse East Coast championship and the overall grand championship. “She’s a piece of cake. They’ve trained her and worked with her. This doesn’t just happen. They’ve worked night and day,” said Reynolds of Struve and trainers Scott and Josey Gentry. “I know how difficult this is. I’ve been showing in the best young horse here for probably 30 years, and every year it’s tough. You don’t win this one easy. It never comes easy.”
This year marked Struve’s first Devon Horse Show. “This is a beautiful old horse show. I’ve never been and since I felt I had a horse of the right caliber to bring here, we figured we’d give it a shot,” she said. “I think she’s going to be a really nice amateur adult show horse for me.”
For full results, visit the Devon Horse Show website.