Five-time Olympian McLain Ward (USA) and his Olympic and World Cup Finals partner HH Azur returned to the Old Salem Farm International Arena on Sunday to defend their title in the $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm and The Kincade Group. Only four of the 31 entries representing nine countries made it to the jump-off, where Ward and “Annie” had the fastest double-clear time of 37.290 seconds.
The Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows are one of the premier stops on the nation’s hunter-jumper horse show circuit, offering a full schedule of world-class competition May 10-15 and May 17-22 that featured the nation’s best in equestrian sport.
The $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm and The Kincade Group kicked off with opening ceremonies including a leadline competition for young riders and the naming of the second annual Hollow Brook Junior Sportsmanship Award. Jordan Gibbs of Colorado Springs, CO, earned this prestigious award for his outstanding sportsmanship throughout the Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows.
Alan Wade set a winding 1.55m-1.60m course with 16 jumping efforts and a tight time allowed of 75 seconds for the Spring Horse Shows finale. American Devin Ryan and LL Show Jumpers LLC’s Eddie Blue claimed an early lead with what seemed to be the only clear score in the initial phase, but Ireland’s Paul O’Shea and fellow Americans Katie Dinan and McLain Ward quickly added some pressure as the class went on.
“I think Alan Wade did a really good job over the two weeks of competition here with the new surface,” said Ward, who is also the Spring Horse Shows Co-Chair. “It was really phenomenal and got better and better as the show went on. I think we saw that in the results this week with more clear rounds, even though the level was higher. Today, he built a very challenging 4 Star. We had a pretty strong group of horses with several Olympic and World Championship horses, but the courses had been built up to that challenge in a good way. The horses were all prepared to jump.”
Returning from their 2021 victory in the Empire State Grand Prix and fresh off Ward’s trifecta of wins during the week ($25,000 National 1.40m-1.45m Jumper Classic, $65,000 Welcome Stake of North Salem, and $37,000 FEI 1.45m Jump-off), Ward and Double H Farm’s 16-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare claimed top honors in the $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm and The Kincade Group. Of the four who jumped off for the winner’s share of prizes, Ward was one of only three riders to go double clear.
“Whenever I get on her now, I give her a pat and say, ‘You don’t owe me a single jump, but if you could jump a few more, I’d appreciate it,’” Ward said of his longtime mount. “I’m always thankful to the very supportive Harrison family and Double H Farm for being in my corner my entire career and this horse’s career. It’s great to see this mare wonderful, healthy, and still doing this sport. It’s lucky that she doesn’t actually need to jump a lot to compete and be in top form, so we kind of pick and choose. She’s two for three so far this year.”
Fellow World Cup Finalist Katie Dinan (USA) returned with Grant Road Partners LLC’s 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Brego R’N B to claim second-place honors, tripping the timers in 38.110 seconds. World Equestrian Games 2018 Team Gold medalist Devin Ryan (USA) took third in a time of 38.250 seconds. Ireland’s Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Machu Picchu Partners LLC, finished fourth with ten faults (four jumping, six time) in the jump-off.