Two-time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward edged out 17-year-old Lucy Deslauriers to win the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier, presented by Longines for the second consecutive year at the 41st annual Hampton Classic Horse Show.
Deslauriers went second of the eight who reached the jump-off by riding clear over the Alan Wade-designed first-round course. She set the mark to beat with a clean jump-off ride 40.75 seconds on Hester, owned by Lisa Deslauriers and it looked like she might have the blue ribbon until Ward, going next to last, clipped off more than a second on HH Carlos Z, owned by Double H Farm, stopping the timers at 39.31 seconds.
“Lucy is a great young rider with a very exciting future. I’m excited for her to be on some teams with me in the future, so my hat’s off to her,” said Ward. “I have a seasoned horse and he’s very good at the speed part. Normally, if he’s in the jump-off, we have a very good chance to win. He just has great foot speed.”
Deslauiers was amazed at her runner-up finish. “It was a really great class and I am almost shocked at the results,” said Deslauriers. “My horse is incredible and I didn’t have much to lose going against these top riders. I just gave it my all and hoped it would be enough. Losing to McLain is not a very bad thing.”
One year ago, Ward won this class on HH Azur on his way to the Rio Olympic Games, where the pair won a team silver medal, but this year he almost didn’t make it past the first round with Carlos Z.
“I didn’t think I rode him well in the first round,” said Ward. “I lost my stirrup, which I can’t remember the last time that’s happened, so I thought I was a little bit lucky to get a clear. Sometimes that just works in your favor; you just take a deep breath.”
The victory in the second of four FEI classes at this year’s Classic moved Ward up to second place in the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge with 190 points and also earned him a Longines Timepiece. Richie Moloney is still in the lead with 216.5 points. Catherine Tyree is third with 187 points.
Ward’s win also earned at least $15,000 for Caring Hearts for Canines as part of the Classic’s new Jump for Charity program. “It is always great to be able to do something to help a worthy cause and this means a lot to me,” said Ward.
“Words cannot describe how excited we are. For a small charity like ours this money means an awful lot. Because of Mclain, lots of dogs will be able to find homes,” said Kate Soroka, a member of the Board of Caring Hearts for Canines.