McLain Ward sped to the top in the $30,000 Boar’s Head Open Jumper Challenge, presented by Dan’s Papers, on opening day at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. The win marked the four-time Olympic veteran’s first competition since leading the U.S. team to a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games. Ward’s 2004 gold medal Olympic teammate Peter Wylde was second and Shane Sweetnam of Ireland was third.
Ward of Brewster, NY, riding Tina La Boheme, bested a field of 39 by going clear in the fastest time of 59.048 seconds on the Michel Vaillancourt designed course in the beautifully manicured Grand Prix ring. Sweetnam, winner of last year’s Longines Rider Challenge as the horse show’s leading open jumper rider, went fourth and set the stage with a clear round in 59.883 seconds on Main Road, owned by Sweet Oak Farm. That score held up until Ward, going in the middle of the pack, beat his time by a fraction of a second. Ward thought the class was a great way to start the week.
“It was a lovely class, a great welcome for the horses with nice prize money,” said Ward. “This is a mare who’s had a great year but hasn’t shown for a while because I have been away. It is a great comeback for her here. It was a nice smooth course but competitive enough. The field was phenomenal. It was a great introduction for the horses.”
Wylde and Paloma, owned by Kathleen Kamine, had a chance to beat Ward going later, but had to settle for second with a time of 59.679 seconds. “The course was beautiful. It was a perfect size and it was fun to get back on this gorgeous field. The first time I competed here was 33 years ago, I was 18 years old. It’s such a beautiful venue and I am happy to be here,” said Wylde.
“My horse was fantastic. I wanted to do a really positive forward round without going crazy and she came in second behind McLain. I was just thrilled with that. We love this horse. She is owned by the Kamine family. She is always doing great things so it’s very exciting to start off the show with a really good placing in a nice class.”
The event continues this week at the Hampton Classic with more Grand Prix classes, WIHS Equitation, and all the adorable lead line action you can handle.