Fresh off his gold medal victory with the NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina, exactly one week ago, McLain Ward returned to his home state of New York to claim his spot in the winner’s circle once again in the $80,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI4*-W with new mount Contagious.
Friday’s featured event at Old Salem Farm brought forth 44 international combinations competing to qualify for Sunday’s $204,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ New York CSI4*-W.
A total of 14 athletes jumped clear over Ireland’s Alan Wade’s first round track in the Annex Ring, but almost half fell victim to time faults due to the tight time-allowed of 76 seconds. Only eight were able to produce fault-free rounds to move on to the jump-off.
Kicking things off in the tiebreaker was Canada’s Ali Ramsay aboard her own Hermelien VD Hooghoeve, finishing double-clear and going straight to the top of the leaderboard in 39.71 seconds.
Ward entered as third in the order riding the 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by Beechwood Stables LLC and posted the next double-clear performance in 37.82 seconds to move into the lead.
“Contagious is a horse that was owned and produced by Reed Kessler for the last season and a half. Reed sent him back to America this summer. She has gone back to school and was keeping horses at my stable here. He turned out to be a really exciting horse. Lise Revers at Beechwood Stables and her daughter, Annabel, talked about maybe buying an interesting young prospect and the opportunity presented itself and here we are.”
Ward acquired the ride on Contagious just this summer, and the American Gold Cup is only the pair’s third show together. Their first victory came at the start of September in the $100,000 Hudson Valley Jumper Classic CSI5* at HITS Saugerties.
“This was probably the biggest class this horse has jumped. This is only our third show together and I wanted to aim him this week at this class and see how he handled it to possibly jump him in the grand prix here. He obviously handled it really well. He’s a really fast horse and he’s very careful. When he handled the first round so well I knew we had a nice chance for the jump-off.”
Ireland’s Paul O’Shea and Imerald Van’t Voorhof, owned by Tequestrian Farms, LLC, and Charlie Jacobs (USA) and CMJ Sporthorse, LLC’s Cassinja S also completed the short course with no faults, but were not quick enough to catch Ward.
O’Shea finished second best in 38.10 seconds for runner-up honors, while Ramsay claimed third place and Jacobs rounded out the top four in 41.21 seconds.
In addition, Ramsay was also awarded the Hattie Banks Leading Lady Rider Award following Friday’s competition for her top finishes thus far at the American Gold Cup.
The top 40 athletes and horses from Friday’s qualifying competition will move on to compete in Sunday’s highly anticipated grand finale, which kicks off the eastern sub-league’s 2018/2019 season of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League.
For the fourth year in a row, the American Gold Cup has been selected as one of only seven events that comprise the East Coast division of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League. Athletes compete in the league at events all across North America in order to qualify for the prestigious Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, April 3-7, 2019.