Wellington, Fla. — Mar. 12, 2020 — Competition in the grass ring kicked off Thursday during the third week of the Palm Beach Masters Series, the Palm Beach Open CSI5*/CSI2*, to mark the final installment of the 2020 event at Deeridge Farms. Operating as a one-round speed class, the $36,600 Suncast Welcome Stake CSI5* saw 44 challengers from 14 nations tackle designer Alan Wade’s (IRL) pattern, with 16 duos pulling away from the pack thanks to fault-free performances. Proving why he is one of the best in the world, McLain Ward (USA) navigated Catoki to a foot-perfect round that topped the field of elite combinations by more than a second, adding to his recent streak of CSI5* victories in Wellington.
For the track, FEI Level 4 Course Designer Wade presented horse-and-rider pairs with 14 jumping efforts built up to 1.45m in height, which included two double combinations and a series of rollback turns that served to separate contenders’ times. Second to take to the ring, Alexandra Thornton (GBR) and Charielle served as the pacesetters, turning in the first clear ride of the afternoon in 66.20 seconds to set themselves up as the early frontrunners. Just three trips later, fellow countrywoman Emily Moffitt (GBR) upped the ante aboard Tipsy du Terral, leaving all the fences intact and tripping the timers in 62.01 seconds to improve the leading time by more than four seconds, putting the pressure on the rest of the field with nearly 40 exhibitors still to ride. Moffitt held a firm grip on the lead for a large portion of the class as contestants such as Alberto Michan (ISR), Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Zoe Conter (BEL), among others, laid down successful efforts but could not catch the time.
After sitting atop the leaderboard for 23 trips, Moffitt and Tipsy du Terral were finally ousted from their position as World-ranked No. 9 Ward, always an imposing name on the start list, piloted the 11-year-old Catoki around the expansive grass field at breakneck speed, crossing the finish line in 57.91 seconds to claim the lead with a significant safety net separating him from the rest of the pack. As the final 21 partnerships took their turns around the course, a number of them completed the class with all the rails up in quick times, but none could surpass Ward and Catoki, the horse he co-owns with Bob Russell and Marilla van Buren. The only two other competitors to break the 60-second threshold, Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Volage du Val Henry earned the reserve honors with a clear time of 59.00 seconds, followed by Ben Maher (GBR) and Tic Tac, co-owned by Jane Forbes Clark and Maher, with their penalty-free effort in 59.29 seconds.
Though Ward has only been competing Catoki since January, the pair have already made quick work of their time in the ring, winning two CSI3* classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) prior to the afternoon’s top honors. Ward’s victory Thursday is one in a growing list of recent CSI5* accolades in the past month, having already topped three separate 5* grand prix classes in Wellington in February. On Feb. 8, Ward and Noche de Ronda led the lap of honor for the $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* at WEF, and just six days later won the $213,300 Longines Grand Prix CSIO5* during the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA week. On Feb. 22, Ward championed the $401,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI5* in the saddle aboard HH Azur ahead of a field of show jumping’s stars.
The Palm Beach Open CSI5*/CSI2* at Palm Beach Masters Series will continue throughout the weekend, with highlight classes including Friday’s $72,900 Palm Beach Masters Qualifier CSI5*, Saturday’s $137,000 Palm Beach Masters Classic CSI5* and Sunday’s $137,000 Palm Beach Masters Classic CSI5*.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
McLain Ward (USA) – $36,600 Suncast Welcome Stake CSI5* winner
On Catoki’s performance:
“He is very quick across the ground and, to be honest, I just have to make sure he doesn’t get too fast. He doesn’t have the hugest stride and the lines weren’t too long today, so that helped a little bit. He is naturally so quick, so I was almost slowing down in a few places so that he wouldn’t get away from me. He is naturally an incredibly fast horse.”
On his recent CSI5* successes:
“It’s ‘what have you done for me lately?’ It’s been a great start to the season, we have great horses and great people and everybody has been going really well. Sometimes, particularly down here in Florida, you can get on a little bit of a run – either good or bad, and I’ve been on both. We are just going to try to keep it going and stay focused as we look at the next event.”
On his string of horses:
“We have Noche de Ronda, who has really been spectacular all through the end of last year and started off this year with a bang and two big wins. HH Azur is healthy and in good form, and we have a nice supporting cast. Things have come together nicely for us.”
On his plans for the week:
“Catoki does another ranking class Friday, and then we have Noche de Ronda on Frida and hopefully in the grand prix Sunday.”
$36,600 Suncast Welcome Stake CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / Faults | Time
1. Catoki / McLain Ward / USA / Bob Russell, Marilla van Buren, McLain Ward / 0 | 57.91
2. Volage du Val Henry / Jessica Springsteen / USA / Stone Hill Farm / 0 | 59.00
3. Tic Tac / Ben Maher / GBR / Jane Forbes Clark, Ben Maher / 0 | 59.29
4. Tipsy du Terral / Emily Moffitt / GBR / Neil & Heidi Moffitt, Poden Farms / 0 | 62.01
5. Lazy / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Stephex Stables, Hila Moveraman / 0 | 62.59
6. Entano / Daniel Bluman / ISR / Alberto Simhon, Alexa Schwitzer, Daniel Bluman, Javier Salvador / 0 | 63.01
7. Ictus d’Emma / Alberto Michan / ISR / Alberto Michan, Wolver Hollow / 0 | 63.92
8. Skara Glen’s Florencia / Paul O’Shea / IRL / Amber Hill Farm LLC, Skara Glen Stables / 0 | 64.10
9. Charielle / Alexandra Thornton / GBR / Dunwalke Ltd / 0 | 66.20
10. Indigo / Margie Goldstein-Engle / USA / Gladewinds Farm Inc / 0 | 66.89
11. Univers du Vinnebus / Zoe Conter / BEL / Stephex Stables / 0 | 67.08
12. Iceman de Muze / Schuyler Riley / USA / E2 Showjumpers / 0 | 68.43