In a thrilling conclusion Saturday night to open jumper competition at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, McLain Ward rode First Lady to the win in the $100,000 Grand Prix de Penn National for the second year in a row.
Ward and the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Don Diarado—Love Dream, Lordanos) owned by Robin Parsky, were one of six entries that advanced to jump-off over Nicholas Granat’s short course set in the Harrisburg Coliseum.
Laura Chapot was the first to return aboard C&C Willow, and she set a quick time to beat at 33.56 seconds. That time would hold up through to the final entry in the ring, Ward and First Lady. As the crowd favorites flew over the final orange and white oxer, a loud cheer erupted as the duo had done it; they shaved roughly nine-tenths of a second off of Chapot’s time to finish in a winning 32.68 seconds. Third place went to Jimmy Torano and Kochio Z.
“First Lady has really become at home in this arena,” said Ward, who was inducted into the PNHS Hall of Fame just before the Saturday evening grand prix. “She’s been phenomenal. I’m very excited for her performance and for Robin Parsky, her owner and a great supporter of the U.S. Equestrian Team and myself. It’s great to get a win for all of our people.”
“We acquired [First Lady] when she was a 7-year-old with great potential,” he continued. “We developed her; we had some ups and downs—mostly ups—and she’s really come along incredibly within the last year.”
Watch a side-by-side video of Ward’s and Chapot’s jump-off rounds, courtesy of Pennsylvania National:
In addition to the win, Ward also finished in fifth aboard Quimi del Maset, owned by Sport Four USA, LLC.
“My younger horse, ‘Quimi,’ was a little bit nervous with the crowd in the jump-off,” he said of the 9-year-old Spanish Sport Horse gelding. “They were enthusiastic, and it’s always great to have them behind you. This is an agricultural part of the world, and they understand horses and animals, and you see their enthusiasm for the sport.”
Following his win on Saturday, Ward is turning his attention to representing the U.S. team aboard Contagious at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. The games are already underway with dressage, and the show jumping team competition there begins Oct. 31.
“It’s always great to have confidence [ahead of the Pan Am Games],” Ward said. “I’m riding a different horse in Chile, but I love it when these horses are going well and we feel like we’re doing our job well. We had a great week [in Harrisburg]. We have a new horse who performed very well in Kyrlanthe, and First Lady did her job. I’m very happy with all the horses all around.”
For full results of the $100,000 Grand Prix de Penn National click here. Check out all the Chronicle’s coverage from the Pennsylvania National here. Check out the Nov. 27 issue of the Chronicle of the Horse magazine for analysis from the competition.