McLain Ward and Sapphire Take Home Biggest Prize in U.S. Outdoor Show Jumping History
United States’ McLain Ward and Sapphire Take Home Biggest Prize in U.S. Outdoor Show Jumping History in €300,000 CN Worldwide Florida Open Grand Prix, CSI-5*
Canada’s Frankie Chesler Ortiz and Picolien Zeldenrust Finish Second, Danielle Torano and Vancouver d’Auvrey Stay Clear for Third
Wellington, FL – March 17, 2007 – The luck of the Irish was on American rider McLain Ward’s side today. He and his veteran partner Sapphire stayed clear through two rounds of competition and had the fastest clear round in the jump-off to win the largest purse ever offered in an outdoor show jumping event in the United States, the €300,000 CN Worldwide Florida Open Grand Prix, CSI-5*. The grand prix today was the first leg of nine competitions that make up the CN Worldwide Global Champions Tour.
Today was the culminating show jumping event of the 2007 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington before the circuit moves to Tampa, FL, for two weeks of competition. In the biggest individual finishes of their careers, Frankie Chesler Ortiz (CAN) and Danielle Torano (USA) finished second and third, respectively.
Today’s class began with the top 50 qualifiers at noon. Judy Garafalo Torres (USA) and Oliver III were the first clear round in the 15th position. Eleven more clear rounds would join her to move on to the second round. The second round brought back the top 15 from the first round. The order of go was determined by the first round time. Two four-fault rounds were quick enough to stay on to the second round, while one rider, Daniel Deusser of Germany on Pristanna, had just one time fault from the first round and advanced as well.
The courses today were designed by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil. The masterful designer, who will test riders at this year’s Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Finals in April, set a large track for the second round. McLain Ward described, "The second round was final day championships jumping. I thought it was as big as you’d jump anywhere. It was the real deal." While the first round had 13 numbered obstacles, the second round had just ten. Rails fell all over the course, but not one of the top 15 riders had any major adversity.
"It’s very nice to be sitting here at the final event here. WEF was my very first competition in the United States. So, I’m very happy to have made it to this competition today," Jorge said. "I had a team out there and big support from Pepe Gamarra and Steve Stephens. They showed me how the horses were jumping so well and so we could really build. This is the biggest course I’ve ever built for the biggest grand prix. We had great jumping and the atmosphere was fantastic, so I’m really, really pleased."
The first to return for the second course was Ken Berkley (USA) on Carlos Boy, owned by Alexa Weisman. He carried over four faults from the first round, and added eight more faults after the second round for a total of 12 faults. This would put him in 14th place at the end of the class.
Beezie Madden (USA) and Iron Spring Farm’s Judgement were the other four-faulters from the first round. Madden had to circle before the huge triple bar in a corner after they had the top plank down at fence three. This led to eight jumping and one time faults, for a two round total of 13 faults and 15th place.
Deusser and Pristanna, owned by Stal Tops, had just one time fault in the first round and duplicated that score in the second round. Their two round total of two faults would keep them out of the jump-off and left them in fifth place.
Yann Candele of France was the first rider with no faults carried over to attempt the second round course. On Mustique, owned by Susan Grange and Lothlorien, Candele had the last fence down in the second round for a two round total of four faults. In the event of a tie in total faults, placings were determined by the first round time. This put Mustique and Candele in 11th place overall.
Lisa Silverman (USA) and Obelix R had a rail into the one stride on course for four faults. Their four fault total and slightly faster first round time gave them 10th place.
The first to go clear in the second round was Torano and Sir Ruly’s Vancouver d’Auvrey, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion. They bounced around the course with apparent ease to set the crowd on fire.
Nick Skelton (GBR) and Russel was another pair to fall victim to the plank jump and their four fault total left them with ninth place. Richard Spooner and Show Jumping Syndicate’s Cristallo, who made the trip from California to compete, had a heartbreaking rail at fence nine for four total faults and eighth place. On Ublesco owned by Trelawny Farm, Cara Raether (USA) could not quite make it over the triple bar. Their four fault total and quicker time gave them seventh place. On the 17-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion Oliver III, Garofalo Torres was unable to match her first clear round. Their rail at the final jump relegated them to sixth place with the fastest four fault score.
A jump-off was guaranteed when Eric Lamaze (CAN) and the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Hickstead, owned by Torrey Pines Stable and Ashland Stables, soared around the course for a clear round.
Todd Minikus (USA) and Pavarotti had a rail at fence 5a and another at fence 9 to total eight faults for 13th place.
McLain Ward and Sapphire, owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock, added their clear round to the jump-off list, but Ward’s fellow World Equestrian Games teammate Laura Kraut and Miss Independent would not when they had the final two fences down. Kraut and Miss Independent finished in 12th place.
It would be a four horse jump-off after Chesler Ortiz and Picolien Zeldenrust, a ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Sher Al Farm, had the fastest clear second round.
Torano was the first to return for the jump-off. "I was more nervous going into the second round than the jump-off," she remembered. "For me, there’s no pressure to go first." She and Vancouver d’Auvrey galloped to the first jump, made a good slice across the second vertical and kept an efficient pace throughout. The striking bay stallion jumped a foot over every jump and was able to notch a third clear round for the day in a time of 37.48 seconds, which would hold up for third place.
As a rider who is always a threat in the jump-off, Lamaze and Hickstead had their trademark fast and furious style today. It was not to be when they pulled a rail at fence 9 for four faults in 37.96 seconds.
Stalking Torano’s lead next was Ward and Sapphire. While Sapphire’s speed has been downplayed in the past, she had no trouble beating the leading time by over two seconds. Ward and Sapphire were triple clear and had a jump-off time of 35.25 seconds.
"She’s a big-strided horse, but she can rollback very tight because she jumps the fences very easily," Ward noted. "I wanted to shave the turns just a little bit tighter, and I thought that might make up the time."
The last to go in the jump-off was Chesler Ortiz and Picolien Zeldenrust. They struck up a gallop, which they carried through the course. Chesler Ortiz was near Ward’s time, but with an added stride to the last jump, they just missed the win. They finished in 37.32 seconds. "I should have left one step out to the last jump," she acknowledged. "I didn’t get to see McLain go, and I know that he’s very fast on that horse. My horse is fast across the ground and across the jumps, but the turns are still a little tricky with her. I took a little extra time through the last turn and to the last jump. I think I made the right choice for her. She left the ring really confident."
Chesler Ortiz bought the talented mare when she was seven and said Picolien has grown "leaps and bounds, getting here this fast." She added, "She’s really coming into her own now. I love riding her. The course was challenging, but I feel like I can face the challenge with her."
Torano has owned Vancouver d’Auvrey for almost a year, but had not shown him much. She gave birth to a daughter, Natalia, in December and began riding again at the beginning of this year. She and husband Jimmy Torano compete in the grand prix ranks together. "Jimmy kept saying, ‘I have a good feeling about this today,’" Torano laughed. "I didn’t think I was as fast as Eric or McLain, who is really fast and has so much more experience. I really tried to go clean, but I didn’t want to crawl. I thought I’d do as much as I thought I could do. It was just one of those times when everything showed up. When we walked the second course, I said to Jimmy, ‘These are huge. I can walk under most of these.’ But, I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can’t do it.’ It’s definitely the biggest course I’ve jumped."
CN President and CEO Hunter Harrison, whose company sponsored this week’s horse show, commented, "I thought it was a wonderful day, a wonderful competition. It was a great competition, a great crowd, and it was a great day for South Florida."
Jan Tops, creator of the Global Champions Tour, was also pleased with today’s competition. "I need to thank Mr. Harrison and CN Worldwide. He was the first who believed in this vision to let our sport grow and make it better for the horse and for the rider," he said. "I want to thank the riders as well. This was an important class; they were all serious, on time and ready for this class. I think the best job today was from the course builder. The start is fantastic, and I look forward to the rest of the Global Champions Tour."
For his win today, McLain Ward took home $133,000, part of the biggest purse ever awarded in the United States in an outdoor show jumping event. Ward conveyed, "I’d like to say a special thanks to the Global Champions Tour and CN. This is where our sport needs to go. We were live on TV today in Europe and there was great prize money. These horses and riders work very hard, and it’s nice that the prizes match that. It’s nice to have great sponsors like this come along and it makes our life very nice."
About his jump-off round, Ward described, "I saw Danielle go. She didn’t go crazy, but it was fast and it was neat. I was a little relieved to see Eric have a fence down because he has a very fast horse. My goal was to go a little bit faster than Danielle and try to put some pressure on Frankie. It worked out. I have a great horse and a great team."
Ward summed up his feelings about Sapphire easily. "Sapphire always feels amazing. She’s now very seasoned. As long as I don’t make a major error, which sometimes I can even get away with, she’s going to perform well. I feel that I can answer most questions with her now. She’s a horse of a lifetime."
"I think it’s probably my biggest personal win," he went on to say. "I have a lot of people to thank for it. Hunter was a big part of my success. Now, a friend of mine, Thomas Grossman, is a part of it, and most importantly, my father, who spearheads my success. I owe most of the credit to him."
Eugene R. Mishce, president of Stadium Jumping Inc. and chairman of the Winter Equestrian Festival competition committee, summed up, "I have to thank my staff for their hard work and long hours. I’d also like to thank the riders who did an excellent job today and showed what the sport is all about. We’re really proud to be part of the Global Champions Tour and of Jan Tops’ vision. I have to thank CN Worldwide and Hunter Harrison. Without our sponsors, this competition wouldn’t be possible."
The Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington wraps up competition tomorrow before moving to Tampa, FL, for two weeks of competition on March 28-April 7, 2007. Tomorrow’s action in the Internationale Arena includes the Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior Jumper Classic, the Seniors Classic, and the Medium Tour 1.50m Classic.
Results of Class 105 CN Worldwide Florida Open, 273,3.1&4.1
CN Worldwide Wellington Finale CSI 5* - March 18, 2007
T/A: 72.00 T/A: 47.00
1 3077 SAPPHIRE MCLAIN WARD USA 0.00 88.29 0.00 68.53 0.00 0.00 35.25 MCLAIN WARD
2 1514 PICOLIEN ZELDENRUST FRANKIE C ORTIZ CAN 0.00 86.09 0.00 63.29 0.00 0.00 37.32 SHER AL FARM
3 2809 VANCOUVER D'AUVREY DANIELLE TORANO USA 0.00 93.23 0.00 69.26 0.00 0.00 37.48 SIR RULY
4 1468 HICKSTEAD ERIC LAMAZE CAN 0.00 91.93 0.00 68.43 0.00 4.00 37.96 TORREY PINES STBLE
5 2762 PRISTANNA DANIEL DEUSSER GER 1.00 96.39 1.00 72.20 2.00 STAL TOPS
6 1744 UBLESCO CARA RAETHER USA 0.00 92.28 4.00 69.98 4.00 TRELAWNY FARM
7 2622 CRISTALLO RICHARD SPOONER USA 0.00 92.76 4.00 65.76 4.00 SHOW JUMPING SYN.I
8 2677 OLIVER III JUDY GAROFALO TORRES USA 0.00 92.19 4.00 69.70 4.00 HIGHER GROUND FARM
9 559 OBELIX R LISA SILVERMAN USA 0.00 93.24 4.00 68.69 4.00 LISA SILVERMAN
10 3161 RUSSEL NICK SKELTON GBR 0.00 92.83 4.00 66.21 4.00 JOHN HALES
11 654 MUSTIQUE YANN CANDELE FRA 0.00 93.63 4.00 71.84 4.00 SUSAN GRANGE
12 2286 MISS INDEPENDENT LAURA KRAUT USA 0.00 87.84 8.00 65.22 8.00 MISS INDEPEND. GRP
13 2841 PAVAROTTI TODD MINIKUS USA 0.00 89.77 8.00 67.92 8.00 TODD MINIKUS LTD
14 1711 CARLOS BOY KEN BERKLEY USA 4.00 88.15 8.00 65.74 12.00 ALEXA WEISMAN
15 1960 JUDGEMENT BEEZIE MADDEN USA 4.00 86.60 9.00 76.00 13.00 IRON SPRING FARM
Photo Credit: Frankie Chesler Ortiz (second), McLain Ward (first) and Danielle Torano (third) on the medal podium with Jessica Newman, Hunter Harrison, Eugene R. Mische, Mayor Tom Wenham and Jan Tops. Photo © 2007 Peter Llewellyn/PMG Pictures.
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