Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

Sapphire Is Presidential At Washington International Horse Show

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30

There aren’t many people who would consider the Washington International a warm-up show. But the veteran team of McLain Ward and Sapphire made a stop in the nation’s capital a priority before heading to Europe this winter and topped the $100,000 President’s Cup CSI-W.

“My plan all along was that if Sapphire came out of the world championships well, we would do two shows in Europe in December,” said Ward, Brewster, N.Y. “I wanted to do one warm-up show, and she’s handled this well in the past.”

PUBLISHED

ADVERTISEMENT

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30

There aren’t many people who would consider the Washington International a warm-up show. But the veteran team of McLain Ward and Sapphire made a stop in the nation’s capital a priority before heading to Europe this winter and topped the $100,000 President’s Cup CSI-W.

“My plan all along was that if Sapphire came out of the world championships well, we would do two shows in Europe in December,” said Ward, Brewster, N.Y. “I wanted to do one warm-up show, and she’s handled this well in the past.”

Aaron Vale on Paparazzi 10 and Pablo Barrios with G&C Quick Star 11 both jumped clear short courses to take second and third.

Seven of the 24 entries found a faultless path around Michel Vaillancourt’s first round course, packed into the compact Verizon Center.

“I tried to build a course that would flow and make sense in a very tight environment,” said Vaillancourt. “I’ve got great riders here, so I have to make a test that’s suitable. I try to be fair, but we also try to create a show.”

Vale logged the first clear jump-off round by slicing the turns through the tight rollbacks.

“The whole jump-off was filled with fast riders,” said Vale. “Everyone was a speed demon in there.”

Barrios followed up with a more measured clear aboard G&C Quick Star. He took his time after that speedy mare logged an uncharacteristic 20 faults last week at Harrisburg.

Sapphire walked into the ring next, and Ward knew he’d have to turn on the afterburners and slice every turn to catch Vale. Ward took advantage of his horse’s huge stride and left a few strides out while leaving every rail in the cups.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ve always said the one thing about Sapphire is that you have to do a few less strides to get the footspeed,” he said. “I knew with those guys coming I had to put the pedal down and hope it stood up.”

Not to be outdone, Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley tried to follow up last week’s win at Pennsylvania National with another, but they ticked a rail. Still, the three open jumper classes Pessoa won earlier in the week earned him the leading open jumper rider and the leading international rider titles.

Winning at Washington wasn’t lost on Ward, who topped the class in 2008 aboard the same mare.

“It’s an important venue for us, and I think it’s great to be here in the city,” he said. “I hope we can stay for many years. It gives us a real electric atmosphere, and I feel this is still one of the most prestigious grand prix to win in this country.”

Keenan Claims Equitation Blue

Lillie Keenan wasn’t exactly expecting a blue ribbon in the Washington International Horse Show Equitation Classic Final. Keenan, who just turned 14, debuted at the major equitation finals last year. This time around, she tacked up a new mount she first sat on just a few weeks ago, Uno, on loan from Madeline Turner. But none of that mattered, and Keenan topped the finals over Molly Braswell and Michael Hughes.

“You can always hope for the best,” Keenan said. “I knew I could trust the horse; I just had to make sure I could trust myself.”

But Keenan’s biggest challenge didn’t come from her age or her new partnership with Uno. The night before the competition she was running a 103-degree temperature.

“I took my temperature before my mom was there, and I said, ‘Mom, I’ll only tell you my temp if you promise you’ll allow me to show tomorrow,’ ” recalled Keenan. “She wasn’t happy with the temperature, and I had to stay in bed for 16 hours. But I’m fine now.”

Keenan came into the jumper phase in second place behind Braswell, who rode her own The General. The jumper phase gave Keenan the edge—but by less than a point. The New York, N.Y., rider sealed her victory when the top 10 riders swapped riders for the work off, and she laid down a seamless trip on Chase Boggio’s Massimo to earn scores 91.00, 86.753 and 91 from judging teams Allison Robitaille, Ralph Caristo, Jimmy Torano, Christine Tauber, Linda Hough and Joe Fargis for that round.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I was a little nervous,” Keenan said of getting on Massimo. “He’s huge, but I knew he would march right around and deal with everything perfectly. I was just trying to be as smooth as possible.”

Keenan, who rides with Andre Dignelli and Patricia Griffith at Heritage Farms, picked up the ride on Uno when her regular equitation mount sustained an injury.

“I always thought this horse would win a championship from the day we got him,” Dignelli said. “They graciously loaned him to Lillie for Harrisburg. It was a good fit, and the other horse is not back in action. They continued to loan him to us for this week and next. We are really indebted to them, because without the horse you have no opportunity for this to happen. He’s a special horse.”

Keenan, who had a wildly successful career in the pony divisions before moving up to the horses, easily adjusted to Uno, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Potsdam—J. Olympia) gelding during their short time together.

“He’s a really lovely horse,” she said. “He has such a big stride, and he’s so automatic. You have to stop yourself from doing too much. He wants to do everything for you, and it’s almost like if you get in his way it won’t have as good of an ending. You just have to stay out of his way and let him do his job. He knows what he’s doing—it’s like he knows the course. If you’re looking right, he’s going right.”

Griffith, who brought Keenan through the pony ranks, was delighted with her first win at a major equitation finals.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Griffith said. “Like Andre said, I knew right away she was going to win. I knew she would win at least one final. I didn’t know it would be at [show age] 13, but I’m not surprised at all. When I watch her, I’m so proud because I’ve seen her through all the stages, and I tried to instill her style. Now people say, ‘Oh, you look like Lillie,’ and I say, ‘Oh, I hope so.’ ”

Saturday Tidbits:

  • Vivian Yowan’s win in the Washington International Horse Show Pony Equitation Finals was bittersweet—it was her last competition on Grand Slam Farm LLC’s Rockette. Yowan, 13, Darien, Conn., has leased the 12-year-old mare for a year now and competed her in both medium pony hunters and pony equitation classes. While Yowan, who rides with Jenny Martin-Rudaz, said Rockette can get cranky in the under saddle classes, she behaved herself today.  “She’s really good at the equitation all together,” Yowan said. “She’s really good with the rollbacks. I thought [the course] was very good. You had a chance to gallop forward, but you also had to show rollbacks and the trot. [Winning] means a lot to me because this is my first time doing the equitation at Washington, and my last show on Rockette.”
  • Tracey Weinberg topped both the $10,000 Ambassador’s Cup Amateur-Owner Classic and the overall amateur-owner championship aboard Larone. Weinberg, who competed at the Washington International for the first time as a pony rider in 1975 and rides with Joe Fargis, has owned the 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Concorde—Utica) stallion for five years now.  “Larone is a dream come true, frankly,” Weinberg, Lovettsville, Va., said. “Everyone should have a Larone. He’s the pony I never had. He taught me how to ride, quite frankly. When you ride Larone, he makes you think you know what you’re doing but you really don’t. When you get on another horse you realize it. He’s a special horse.”
  • Karen Polle, New York, N.Y., piloted her own What Ever, an 11-year-old Belgium Warmblood (Darco—M. Sellie) mare to the junior jumper championship today. Polle, 17, is fresh off team and individual gold medals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show Randolph College/USEF Junior Jumper Championships.

Check out the our coverage of yesterday’s junior hunters, and you can find results at the Washington International Horse Show website.

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse