Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

Ward Wins Upperville Jumper Classic With A Paris Hopeful



McLain Ward showcased one of his prospects for the Paris Olympics at the 170th running of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Virginia), winning the $226,000 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4* with Quimi Del Maset.

“He’s really an exciting horse,” Ward said. “We acquired him at the end of last year. We’ve been kind of trying to see a horse for Paris, and we had an opportunity.”

A field of 30 entries representing nine nations took the ring to undertake Nick Granat’s debut effort at designing Upperville’s FEI track. 

McLain Ward and Sport Four USA LLC’s new acquisition Quimi Del Maset topped the Upperville Jumper Classic on Sunday in Upperville, Va. Anne Gittins Photo

“I’ve known Nick for years,” said Ward.  “And he’s done a lot of learning with many of the top course builders in the world. I think he’s excellent and I think he deserves a chance. I think he’s a lot better than some of the course builders that we see on a regular basis. He’s a horseman and he’s put in the time and I take my hat off to him, he’s very talented.”

The field had its share of rails, and the last fence proved to be the nemesis for more than one rider—Jimmy Torano aboard Chewbacca, Vasco Flores riding Carollo and Mark Bluman with Olympic Van De Noordheuvel all missed out on the jump-off because of a rail there. Torano’s came after a premature roar from the crowd as he cleared the second to last.

Five pairs made it through to the jump-off, where Canada’s Tiffany Foster held the lead aboard her 2022 FEI World Championship partner Figor on a time of 38.31 until Ward pipped her by stopping the clocks at 37.7. Victory was not assured until Cathleen Driscoll rode last aboard Arome, taking 4 faults and handing Ward the win.

 “Cathleen is really a pain in my neck, actually,” Ward admitted when asked how it felt to watch riders go after him against the clock. “She is an incredibly tenacious and talented young rider. Honestly I think if she hadn’t had a little bad luck, she was going to get me today.”

Foster’s appearance was her first at Upperville, and it was based on positive feedback from other riders about the footing and the competition at the historic Virginia showgrounds.


“We gave [Figor] a little bit of a break after the world championships last year,” she said. “He doesn’t love Florida, so we didn’t do too much there with him. We picked a couple of venues with good footing. It’s the first time I’ve come here, and I’m really glad I did.”

After his win Sunday at Upperville, Ward talked about Quimi Del Maset, a 9-year-old Spanish Sporthorse gelding (Quasimodo Z—Increta Del Maset, Indret Del Masset) owned by the Sport Four USA LLC group, as a prospect for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Unfortunately my other horses are getting a little older, and probably Paris would be a bit of a stretch age-wise to ask that of them,” he said. “This group behind me has been very enthusiastic. We’ve acquired a few horses, but you know it’s like any other big sport now—it’s not one swing and done. I think we have something special, and I hope I’m up to his level and manage him well ‘til then.”

Quimi Del Maset contested the South American Games (Paraguay) last year with former rider Daniel Bedoya of Bolivia, finishing fifth in the individual final. Since Ward took over the ride in January, he’s been focused on building a partnership with the gelding.

“We brought him along a little bit slowly in Florida, as we got to know him,” he said. “We’ve only jumped two 1.60-meter grand prix so far, but he’s also won 1.50-meter [classes], and he’s now won four out of five.”

The Upperville Jumper Classic closed out the 170th edition of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show after a week that looked in jeopardy when smoke from Canada’s forest fires affected the air quality and closed the action down for half a day on Thursday. But the smoke cleared and Upperville continued its tradition as the world’s oldest horse show.

“It’s always very special,” said Ward, who has nostalgic connections to the grounds. “There is so much tradition here. The community have worked very hard to keep it something that we don’t see that much anymore: open space and connection to agriculture and animals. They’ve made some great improvements over the last few years. I used to drive down here on Saturdays with my father, and we used to compete in this parking lot behind us here. When people see it today, they can’t believe we used to jump on that hill, and so I always have some great memories here.”



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