Devon, Pa. – June 1, 2017 – Thursday night at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair belonged to world number two ranked rider McLain Ward of Brewster, New York, who surpassed 28 contenders to claim the $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4* for the ninth time in his career.
Ward rode the 16-year-old chestnut Warmblood, Rothchild, owned by Sagamore Farms, around the famed Dixon Oval in front of a packed crowd who couldn’t have been more pleased to see the reigning World Cup Champion take the win, this time aboard the veteran “old man” in the barn.
“That horse gets this sport,” McLain said of Rothchild. “I always say to him, ‘You don’t owe me a thing but it would be nice to win again!’ That’s kind of how I am with him. He owes me nothing. If he never jumps another fence again, it’s fine. As long as he’s healthy and he’s performing this way I think he enjoys it, and physically he looks better than ever. So I am going to continue on with him as long as he tells me he’s still healthy and enjoying the sport and enjoying what we’re doing.”
Great Britain’s Kelvin Bywater challenged the international field of athletes with his technical first round track consisting of 12 obstacles each set at 1.60m in height, pushing their skill set to go head-to-head for the most coveted trophy in the Devon collection: the Celeste McNeal Harper Perpetual Trophy.
“I think it’s an amazing atmosphere at this show,” Said Kelvin. “I don’t think you can go anywhere else in the world and get a better atmosphere. I think it’s as good as anywhere in Europe. It’s very hard for the horses sometimes. When you stand in the middle of the ring it’s like being in an amphitheater. It’s quite incredible.”
Jonathan McCrea (USA) set the tone for the evening as the first to navigate the course fault-free aboard Candy Tribble’s Aristoteles V. Second to turn in a clear ride was Devin Ryan (USA) riding his own Cooper, while Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) gave Luibanta BH a clear ride for Gochman Sport Horse LLC. The remaining riders to join the jump-off were Aaron Vale (USA) riding Finou 4, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, and Ward and Rothchild.
In the end, Rothchild reigned supreme for the second time, after also winning with Ward in 2013, in the five-horse jump-off, thrilling spectators and galloping through the timers in a speedy 41.21 seconds.
“Kelvin is a brilliant course designer,” said McLain. “His courses, and I say this as a compliment, are quite English – a lot of rollbacks. Rollbacks and Rothchild are a little dice-y. He can duck out every once in a while so I have to give him a little bit of room even though he has good foot speed. I didn’t think the jump-off was super fast tonight so I didn’t have to be insane.”
McCrea was first to return to take on the shortened course, and set the time to beat at 4 faults in 46.260 seconds, which would earn him fifth place at the end of the evening. Ryan was second to return and was the first to clear the course penalty-free in 42.110 seconds, garnering him second place honors in the final standings.
“I was third twice and now second so I am slowly moving up!” Joked Ryan. “Every time behind McLain. I could have turned a little tighter, but my horse isn’t the best with rollbacks even though he’s quick across the ground. I have to give him a little room with his front end. I didn’t take the shot tonight. Recently, I’ve been taking a shot in the rollback turns and I’ve been having rails down so I decided to be a little conservative tonight and just see what happens.”
Derbyshire followed with another fault-free round, finishing just behind Ryan in 42.560 seconds, which would be good enough for third place. Vale returned as fourth in the jump-off order-of-go, but added 4 faults to his name in 42.950 seconds to finish in fourth place.
“This is my first top three finish in a 4* so I am very excited about that,” Said Amanda after the class. “Devon is close to where we are based for the summer, which is great. Becky and David [Gochman], who own the horses, were here tonight and it’s always extra special when they are here.”
The enthusiastic crowd erupted as Ward and his longtime partner, Rothchild, were the final pair to cross the finish line with all of the rails intact. The ever-expressive gelding threw his infamous buck at the end of his stellar performance, knowing he had secured the title of $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4* champion.Rothchild and Ward continue to make headlines with their impressive performances throughout the world, including those at the 2015 Pan American Games where the pair won individual gold.
To conclude the night, Beezie Madden (USA) was presented with the Richard E. McDevitt Style Award for displaying the best style of riding throughout the evening aboard Breitling LS.
$225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults / Time / R2 Faults / Time
1. Rothchild / McLain Ward / USA / Sagamore Farms / 0 / 70.260 / 0 / 41.210
2. Cooper / Devin Ryan / USA / Devin Ryan / 0 / 68.02 / 0 / 42.110
3. Luibanta BH / Amanda Derbyshire / GBR / Gochman Sport Horse LLC / 0 / 69.900 / 0 / 42.560
4. Finou 4 / Aaron Vale / USA / Thinks Like A Horse / 0 / 69/230 / 4 / 42.950
5. Aristoteles V / Jonathan McCrea / USA / Candy Tribble / 0 / 72.080 / 4 /46.260
6. Navalo de Poheton / Andrew Kocher / USA / MKO Equestrian LLC / 4 / 67.200
7. Quointreau Un Prince / Laura Chapot / USA / Laura Chapot and McLain Ward / 4 / 68.060
8. Breitling LS / Beezie Madden / USA / Abigail Wexner / 4 / 69.100
9. GC Chopins Bushi / Alberto Michan / MEX / Iron Horse Farm / 4 / 69.360
10. California 62 / Andrew Ramsay / USA / The California Group / 4 / 69.880
11. Barnetta / Sharn Wordley / NZ / Sky Group / 4 / 70.030
12. Serise Du Bidou / Alison Robitaille / USA / Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone / 4 / 71.600