Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 28, 2019 – Thursday of CSIO4* week at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) hosted the eighth round of the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup, straying from its usual two-round format to instead challenge 66 horse-and-athlete combinations against the clock across Steve Stephens’ 16-effort speed track. Never a pair to disappoint, McLain Ward of the United States and his 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) team gold medal mount, Clinta, set forth a winning time of 72.52 seconds as the 60th pair in the order, proving uncatchable by the remaining six combinations.
Catherine Tyree (USA) captured the early lead aboard Catungee, owned by Mary and Joe Tyree, with a clear-round time of 76.08 seconds, which held strong for more than 20 following combinations until Ashlee Bond (ISR) flew to a time of 75.49 seconds with Little Valley Farm’s Donatello 141 to overtake the lead. The top spot then quickly changed hands to Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez with his own and Alice Lawaetz’s Chacna in a close time of 75.33.
Martin Fuchs of Switzerland quickly challenged Gonzalez’s leading round, flying to a time of 74.63 seconds aboard Silver Shine, owned by Willow Grace Farms. The pair’s time would eventually fall short to Ward, however, and Fuchs would ultimately capture second place, while Gonzalez rounded out the top three. Finishing in fourth place was Bond, with Locan Gallagher (IRL) and Tyree taking home fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Ward and Clinta, the grey mare he co-owns with Sagamore Farms and Susan Heller, captured a career-highlighting victory when they secured the team gold medal as the final combination for the NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team in a unprecedented, nail-biting jump-off against the Swedes at the 2018 WEG in Tryon, North Carolina. The 12-year-old Oldenburg took a well-deserved break following the championship and Ward is now preparing the mare to qualify for the prestigious Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final, which he won with his other top mare HH Azur in 2017, to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, April 3–7.
Competition will resume in the International Arena with the $1,500 1.40m High Junior Jumpers at 8 a.m., while WEF Week Eight will highlight the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup™ CSIO4* as its “Saturday Night Lights” feature event on March 2 at 7 p.m. The $209,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSIO4* will take place on Sunday, March 3, at 1 p.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
McLain Ward – $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup VIII winner
“Clinta’s had a nice schedule since [the 2018 WEG]. She had a little rest and then we did the National Horse Show. She had 4 faults and jumped very well. Then I went back to Europe and she jumped great. We were third in the [Rolex IJRC] Top 10 Final and had one [rail] down in the grand prix in Geneva. She jumped brilliant, actually — I thought it was the best round she jumped of the year. Then we gave her a good rest and we stopped in the middle of December and gave her almost five weeks off. We’ve been slowly legging her back up. I showed her a few weeks ago in a couple of 1.40m [classes] and then she jumped last night in the 1.40m and then again today and she’ll do the grand prix on Sunday. She’s a little unfit, but she feels good and she needs to compete a little bit. She’s such a quality horse, she needs to get in the ring a little. She felt great [today]. Even though it was a fast enough round to win, I didn’t feel like I was actually extreme anywhere. I picked up a good gallop and things were showing up out of stride. The thing about her is that she’s so careful you don’t really have to set up the verticals, which saves you two-tenths [of a second] at every vertical and by the end of the course that’s a lot. She felt a little tired at the end. I don’t think her fitness level is quite where I want it for the [2019 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final], but there are still six or seven weeks and we can try to build up to peak at the right moment.”
On his plan for Clinta:
“If everything goes smoothly this week, she’s going to compete again next week in the CSI5* grand prix. If we come out of that feeling good, we’re actually just going to do one small show here — possibly in one of the smaller rings — before heading to Gothenburg and World Cup Finals. That’s the goal.”
On Thursday’s course:
“I thought it was nice. It was a good track for me because you could stay smooth. There were rollbacks but there weren’t extreme slices. There were no all or nothing turns, which I prefer. I think it actually suits the better riders because they can consistently deliver a smooth round. Sometimes we have all or nothing rollbacks or inside cuts and it’s a little bit up to the gods. I liked the course and I thought it was a good class. We always have one [speed class]. I think it’s good. For my horse, it was nice to be able to blow out the jets a little bit and not have to jump two rounds.”
$36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup VIII
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Faults | Time
1. Clinta / McLain Ward / USA / 0 | 72.52
2. Silver Shine / Martin Fuchs / SUI / 0 | 74.63
3. Chacna / Enrique Gonzalez / MEX / 0 | 75.33
4. Donatello 141 / Ashlee Bond / ISR / 0 | 75.49
5. Charlie / Lorcan Gallagher / IRL / 0 | 76.04
6. Catungee / Catherine Tyree / USA / 0 | 76.08
7. Amsterdam 27 / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / 0 | 76.91
8. Doryane HDH / Petronella Andersson / SWE / 0 | 77.62
9. Everse W / Rowan Willis / AUS / 0 | 78.55
10. Hortensia Van De Leeuwerk / Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane / MEX / 0 | 79.9
10. Venue D’fees Des Hazalles / Eve Jobs / USA / 0 | 79.9
12. MHS Attraction / Sergio Alvarez Moya / ESP / 0 | 80.35