He turns to Goldika 559 for a big win in New Hampshire.
In his first appearance since winning team gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, McLain Ward struck gold again in the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, the featured class of the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic, held Sept. 3-7 in Hampton Falls, N.H., at Silver Oak Equestrian Center.
With his Olympic mount, Sapphire, still in quarantine on her way home from Hong Kong, Ward turned to the steady Goldika 559. “She’s an old partner of mine, and we’ve shown a lot together. She’s been a great winner,” said Ward.
“She always does pretty much the same job as long as I don’t get in her way,” he added. Ward, of Brewster, N.Y., has been competing Goldika for five years and owns the mare in partnership with Blue Chip Bloodstock.
Ward said that despite her age, the 16-year-old mare needs little special management. “She’s definitely in the twilight of her career but very healthy and very sound. All our horses get a lot of attention,” he said.
Ward took Goldika with him for a summer European tour, and she got ribbons at Geesteren (the Netherlands), Aachen (Germany) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands). “She’s in very good form. She’d had a rest after the summer, so she felt fresh and jumped two good rounds. As long as she’s healthy and competes well, we’ll keep going,” he said.
Of the 23 entries in the class, only eight jumped clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. First to jump off, Ward knew he’d have to set the pace.
“I actually thought I was a bit wide on my approach to the liverpool, and that if someone wanted to catch me, that was their window of opportunity,” he said. “When I compete Goldika 559, she comes out with the desire to win. It was a competitive field today, so I am excited that that time stood up and happy to win the class.”
Ward stopped the timers clean in 37.08 seconds. The rest of the jump-off field ran, but they couldn’t catch him.
Ward plans to show both Goldika and Sapphire on the indoor show circuit; the FEI World Cup Finals in April are his next big goal.
Spectators easily recognized Darren Graziano’s mount for the win in the $15,000 Equine Insurance Services Speed Stake, because she was the face of the Jumper Classic this year. Allure, a Belgian Warmblood, was pictured on advertisements and flyers promoting the show.
She and Graziano won this class three years ago when they were first partnered, and this year was a repeat performance. The pair also took the blue in a level 6 class.
Over the winter, Allure had some time off due to a minor injury, which Graziano believes turned out to be a blessing. “She’d been going strong for two years while I was developing her, and, looking back, that was a nice time for her to take a deep breath,” he said.
“I think that’s why she’s come back so strong this summer. She’s won at least one good class at every horse show we’ve gone to this summer, and we won two good classes this time. Sometimes things happen for the best, and you have to go with the flow.”
After more than 5 inches of rain fell the day before, the footing wasn’t ideal, but Jumper Classic staff worked overtime to make it safe. Graziano said, “It was definitely to my advantage to ride first in the class.”
The speed stake course included a double combination that required a tight turn and took the competitors close to the crowd. A number of rides acquired faults here.
But knowing his horse tends to be careful and a little anxious when the ground is soft, Graziano stayed wide to give the mare some extra room.
Dominating The Derby
Peter Leone has ridden in jumper derbies all over the world and rose to the challenge to take the $15,000 Mohegan Sun Derby on Nerval de la Batia.
“I love that kind of jumping. The natural obstacles and hills and ditches add a greater component of risk than the majority of show jumping we do. I like the challenge. There’s rarely a derby I don’t get a piece of,” Leone said with a laugh.
Nerval de la Batia is a 7-year-old French-bred gelding owned by the Beaupre Group, a collection of friends and clients determined to keep a good horse under Leone.
“Nerval has a wonderful future in this sport,” Leone said. “He has a huge stride, tons of scope, ability and character, but he’s still fairly green relative to sophisticated show jumping.
“At Old Salem [N.Y., in the spring], he stopped at the water jump. I think it was more out of surprise than anything else. The same thing happened [this summer at Collingwood in Ottawa, Canada]. So I know he can get caught by surprise. He just needs more experience,” Leone said.
In the Mohegan Sun Derby, “I wasn’t really sure how he was going to answer the questions,” Leone said. “It was an extremely long course, which required a lot of stamina and got more careful as it went along, instead of easier. There was a devil’s dyke, the derby bank, liverpool and ditch. I tried to be clear to my horse exactly what to do with these challenging derby obstacles. I tried to remove all question from his mind. When I called upon him, he did his thing and won the class. I’m so happy with how he responded.”
Before Leone took to the course, Charlie Jacobs held the lead aboard Pia.
“I watched as he took the lead. I seriously questioned whether I could beat Charlie. But I rolled up my sleeves, so to speak, and went at it,” Leone said. He shaved more than a second off Jacobs’ time for
Sarah Wynne Jackson