Two-time U.S Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward claimed the $205,000 Longines FEI Toronto World Cup qualifier, in front of a sold-out crowd on Nov. 10, at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, Ontario.
Ward topped a 21-horse starting field over tracks set by 2018 World Championship course designer, Alan Wade of Ireland, to claim the ninth Royal Horse Show World Cup title of his career. As the final challenger in the jump-off, Ward saved the best for last, executing a brilliant round to stop the clock at 32.42 seconds riding HH Gigi’s Girl. Ward’s U.S. gold medal teammate at the recent World Equestrian Games (North Carolina), Devin Ryan, posted a time of 33.88 seconds with his WEG partner, Eddie Blue, to finish runner-up.
“It was nice to have the last spot in the order,” said Ward, who was presented with the Hickstead Trophy, given in memory of Eric Lamaze’s legendary 2008 Olympic gold medal partner, and a Longines timepiece for his win. “I know Devin and his horse are quick because he has beat me a few times. Sometimes you get lucky.
“This was a gymnastics test, which is what courses are now at the highest level,” Ward said of Wade’s track, one that HH Gigi’s Girl, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Vingino—Celano) owned by Double H Farm, conquered with style. “The mare performed beautifully the whole second part of this year and is really putting things together, and it’s a great way for her to finish her season. She has always been a spectacular jumper, and I feel she has a really exciting future.”
Ward, 43, estimates that he has been competing at the Royal Horse Show for almost a quarter of a century, saying, “I love it here. Obviously, I’m not Canadian, but I think of this as a second home. The show is being run beautifully, and the organization is phenomenal. As you saw, we had a sold-out crowd, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
The victory earned Ward coveted qualifying points for the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final, an event he won in 2017. The 2019 edition will be held next April in Gothenburg, Sweden. Ward, who had also won the $50,000 Weston Canadian Open one night earlier riding Tradition De La Roque, earned the Leading International Rider title.
Ryan’s second-place finish placed him closer to his goal of qualifying for the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final after a spectacular year for him and his mount, Eddie Blue, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by LL Show Jumpers LLC.
“As I always say, take it one day at a time, but this year I am going to try to make it back to the World Cup Final,” he said. “We’ll see how the cards play out, but he’s had quite a big year this year, and I think he’s a really special horse, so I don’t want to over use him.
“You always think about what you would you have done differently,” continued Ryan, 36, of his position behind Ward. “I didn’t take quite the shot that McLain took. I probably should have tried it, but that’s show jumping for you!”
Ali Ramsay of Victoria, British Columbia, posted the first clear round of the evening riding her 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, Hermelien VD Hooghoeve, and opened the jump-off by again jumping clear in a time of 34.62 seconds for third place.
“It’s always harder going first because you know you have to go clear,” said Ramsay, 26, who first attended the Royal Horse Show in 2012 when she won the Running Fox CET Medal Final. “I think my horse did everything I asked of her. We are really lucky to have this Canadian indoor venue here at The Royal and having this crowd is really unlike anything else.”
Great Britian’s Amanda Derbyshire also posted a double-clear performance in a time of 35.20 seconds to finish fourth riding Roulette BH for owner Gochman Sport Horse LLC, while New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley rounded out the jump-off field in fifth place after having a rail down over the short course aboard Barnetta, owned by Sky Group