The $75,000 Prestige Italia Grand Prix wrapped up Premiere Week in the International Arena on Sunday, January 7th, at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). While there proved to be an exciting lineup of horses and riders, two-time U.S. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward and the little bay superstar, Catoki, simply could not be caught.

The class consisted of twenty-six riders over a challenging thirteen-obstacle course designed by Eric Hasbrouck (USA). including a triple combination that caused several rails. The class started off with a bang, including several early clear trips, but as it unfolded the clear rate slowed. The first four to jump clear and make the time allowed were Chris Ewanouski (USA), Matt Williams (AUS), Jimmy Torano (USA), and Ward. Richard Vogel (GER) and Michael Murphy (USA) in the latter half of the draw then joined the jump-off list.

McLain and his sportscar of a horse, Catoki (Catoki x Caretello B) owned by Marilla van Beuren and Bob Russell were the quickest and most precise by more than three full seconds in the jump-off, to land them with an exciting win. They crossed the timers in 29.003 seconds, while Australia’s Matt Williams finished second riding Meadowvale Cruise in 32.959 for owner Wyndmont.

“He’s feeling great,” said Ward of his 2009 Holsteiner gelding. “He’s always great after a little bit of rest. He’s won so much and goes so fast; he almost gets a little bit like a racehorse. So, we gave him a long break after Toronto and he came back a little more mellow.”

Catoki and Ward earned themselves a redemption win after finishing second to Vogel on Thursday in the WEF Challenge Cup. “I was caught a little bit sleeping to the last fence. I added two and I meant to only check up once and Richie got me” he recalled. “After the class, I told him I was sleeping, and he was going to have to go faster on Sunday. I knew he was coming behind me, so I wanted to be quite quick today!”

McLain is wearing several hats this year as a competitor, trainer, coach and father, the list is immense. “I’m hyper-competitive so every day is a goal, but obviously the CSI5* grand prix are the focus. We will be bringing out our best and most experienced horses for those events and those are probably the highlights.”

Ward repeated his 2022 success in this Premiere Grand Prix which last year kicked off a big season. Fingers crossed for 2023.

He went on to describe his daughter, Lilly, and how her riding and showing have progressed, “I love it! We had itty bitty jumpers yesterday and two-second places. Lilly is doing a great job. It’s important to me that not only does she learn how to ride well and play the game well but also have a great appreciation for the horses and learn their personalities and the effort they give us.”

$75,000 Prestige Italia Grand Prix
1. McLain Ward (USA) & & Catoki
2. Matthew Williams (USA) & Meadowvale Cruise
3. Chris M Ewanouski (USA) & Echo VH Gerendal Z
4. Richard Vogel (GER) & Codex 28
5. Jimmy Torano (USA) & Kochio Z

Full results here.