Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 25, 2017 – McLain Ward bested a dozen horses in an unbelievably exciting jump-off to win the $380,000 Suncast Grand Prix CSI5* for the second consecutive year during Week Seven of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Saturday night. Riding his Olympic mount HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and François Mathy, Ward and the spectacular mare stopped the Rolex timers in 39.70 seconds.
“I am thrilled with the mare,” said Ward. “I was a bit motivated tonight. I was on a bit of a 4-fault run and getting a little frustrated. I had a little bit of a lucky rub on the second to last, but like I said I’ve been having some unlucky runs lately so I’ll take it.”
Ward showed the capacity crowd just why he is currently the number three rider in the world with a technically perfect speed round on the amazing bay mare to win the class.
“It was an interesting jump-off,” said Ward. “There were long gallops in the beginning and at the end and then hairpin turns in the middle, which for a big horse like mine are slow. It’s difficult to keep the momentum, but I thought it was quite a well-balanced jump-off.”
Canada’s Eric Lamaze and his Rio Olympic charge Fine Lady 5, owned by Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable, have been having a fantastic WEF this year. They rode prior to Ward and, although they cut corners and raced around, their time of 40.07 seconds was not quick enough to beat Ward.
“McLain was just that much better today,” said Lamaze. “You might say he was lucky, but there was nothing lucky about his round that he had. My horse doesn’t have the biggest stride. She is very quick across the ground. I tried to be as quick as I could. I did my best coming home and I think that is where [McLain] got me.”
Eighteen-year-old Emily Moffitt (GBR) and Hilfiger van de Olmenhoeve, owned by Poden Farms, were eighth in the first round order of 40 starters and as such were the trailblazers in the jump-off with a double-clear in a time of 45.87 seconds. Kevin Babington (IRL) and Shorapur, owned by Shorapur, LLC, immediately followed Moffitt and shaved off more than four seconds with a clear round time of 41.37 seconds.
Subsequent riders felt the pressure as they had rails taking them out of contention, until Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) and Arrayan took to the Anthony D’Ambrosio-designed course and stopped the timers in 40.10 seconds for third place.
“I was super happy when I finished the jump-off today,” said Alvarez Moya. “The way I could ride in the jump-off — the turns suited me quite well. I was really happy with the way he went. I knew the others were coming and they were really trying. I am super happy.”
The final two riders, Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who is currently the number one rider in the world rankings, and Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, could not overcome the blistering time set by Ward. Deusser finished in fifth with a double-clear round time of 41.05 seconds, while O’Connor was slightly faster for fourth in 40.21 seconds.
$380,000 Suncast Grand Prix CSI5*
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / R1 Faults | R2 Faults | Time
1. McLain Ward / USA / HH Azur / 0 / 0 | 38.70
2. Eric Lamaze / CAN / Fine Lady 5 / 0 / 0 | 40.07
3. Sergio Alvarez Moya / ESP / Arrayan / 0 / 0 | 40.10
4. Cian O’Connor / IRL / Good Luck / 0 / 0 | 40.21
5. Daniel Deusser / GER / Cornet D’Amour / 0 / 0 | 41.05
6. Kevin Babington / IRL / Shorapur / 0 / 0 | 41.37
7. Emily Moffitt / GBR / Hilfiger van de Olmenhoeve / 0 / 0 | 45.87
8. Tiffany Foster / CAN / Cadalora P / 0 / 4 | 41.59
9. Hardin Towell / USA / Lucifer V / 0 / 4 | 42.75
10. Laura Kraut / USA / Zeremonie / 0 / 4 | 43.30
11. Samuel Parot / CHI / Atlantis / 0 / 8 | 42.90
12. Samuel Hutton / GBR / Happydam / 0 / 8 | 45.20