USA’s McLain Ward had a packed house on its feet at the end of a nine-horse jump-off in the CHF406,000 ($440,480 USD) Fidelity Investments® CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 5’s ‘Saturday Night Lights’ at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). He and Callas had precision and speed in spades to tackle Frank Rothenberger’s (GER) track and win the first CSI5* event of the WEF season.
There’s another leading lady coming up in Ward’s impressive string of horses. He expertly piloted Callas, a 15-year-old Holsteiner (Casall x Coriano) to the first CIS5* victory of the mare’s career on Saturday. They eclipsed what seemed like an untouchable leading time from Ireland’s Darragh Kenny and Volnay du Boisdeville, a 2009 Selle Français stallion (Winningmood x Jalisco B) owned by Vlock Show Stables. Ward clocked in at 44.03 seconds, nearly a second faster that Kenny (45.09). An even smaller margin separated second and third place, with Kent Farrington (USA) stopping the clock at 45.14 seconds with Landon, a 2013 Zangersheide gelding (Comilfo Plus Z x Quadrillo) owned by Haity MC Nerney. (Top Canadian in the class was Tiffany Foster, who placed 14th with Hamilton.)
Ward has been the number-one rider for Callas for about a year, but is no stranger to the mare’s talent after scouting her for previous rider, U.S. Under 25 athlete Annabel Revers*.
“She’s been knocking on the door, so it’s nice for us to break through and get a big win,” said Ward of the Beechwood Stables owned mare.
“The jump-off was built for us,” enthused Ward. “She cuts a little left and so one, two I could take a straight line. I needed the Hermès to show up well off that rollback. As you saw with everybody, you had to make a sharp turn and it was a bit awkward, but I got away with that one. She performed brilliant.”
With only two to return behind him over the short course, Ward was happy to have names like Kenny and Farrington already on the leaderboard. “It’s always easier when you come after riders like Kent. When you go before you do the best round, but when you go after you certainly are at an advantage.”
Kenny and his seasoned mount, Volnay du Boisdeville executed some slick turns in the jump-off to take the lead midway through the order. “He was brilliant again tonight,” said Kenny, who’s hungry to be at the top of a CSI5* podium soon after pocketing a CSI3* grand prix win during opening week of FEI competition at WEF. “I’ve been second in three five stars with him, so at some point I hope we will break through.”
Volnay du Boisdeville’s efforts impressed the Palm Beach County crowd that turned out to take in top sport on Saturday night and Kenny felt the energy. “The atmosphere was unbelievable tonight and it’s hard getting a crowd like that, but this one was amazing.”
After celebrating the healthy retirement of Gazelle, his longtime partner in international show jumping success earlier in the evening, Farrington jumped onto the grand prix podium. Landon, a mount he’s been campaigning since the horse’s seven-year-old year is now making waves at the highest level.
“I’ve brought him up slow. He’s an incredible jumper. His rideability was a bit difficult; that set some speed limits on me still for the jump-off but he’s learning to go a bit quicker,” said Farrington who won a CSI3* grand prix with Landon on the derby field three weeks earlier. “It was a tremendous performance for him, and this was his first night class here in the big ring. I thought he jumped incredible, so I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Ward was presented as winner of the CHF406,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix by Robert Fessler, Vice President, Financial Consultant, Fidelity Investments®. To close the evening, winning groom and Callas’ caretaker Irvin Perez was honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm, by Claire Stevenson of Double H Farm.
* (Ed note: Lise Revers, the owner of Beechwood Stables and the wonderful mare Callas, contacted Horse Sport to point out an error in this article “where you stated that McLain scouted the horse for my daughter, Annabel Revers. The correct story is that Max Amaya of Stonehenge Stables found this wonderful mare in Belgium for Annabel back in 2018. Max has an amazing ability for finding and training top level grand prix horses for many upcoming young riders and Callas is a great example of that. Annabel has had great success with this mare and other grand prix horses under Max’s excellent care and training. When she decided to take a break from riding last spring to focus on her college studies, Max asked McLain if he would be willing to take over the ride on this special horse. Callas is still under Max’s care and training and we are hopeful that with McLain in the stirrups, she can reach her full potential.”)
Top five results: CHF406,000 Fidelity Investments® CSI5* Grand Prix
1. McLain Ward (USA) & Callas: 2008 Holsteiner mare (Casall x Coriano) Owner: Beechwood Stables, LLC
2. Darragh Kenny (IRE) & Volnay du Boisdeville: 2009 Selle Français stallion (Winningmood x Jalisco B) Owner: Vlock Show Stables LLC
3. Kent Farrington (USA) & Landon: 2013 Zangersheide gelding (Comilfo Plus Z x Quadrillo) Owner: Haity MC Nerney
4. Natalie Dean (USA) & Acota M: 2013 Oldenburg mare (Toulon x Quattro 7) Owner: Marigold Stables, LLC
5. Lars Kersten (NLD) & Emmerton: 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Silvio I x Sam R.) Owner: SHL Farm
Full results here.