Two-time Olympic Gold medalist McLain Ward of Brewster, New York, took top honours with Rothchild tonight, in the $50,000 Weston Canadian Open at the 89th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Topping the field of 20, Ward was the 13th to enter the ring, giving him plenty of time to watch, and strategise, before it was his turn to perform.
Half a dozen riders before Ward’s turn was Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands, who was the first to attempt and execute an inside turn to the “CN Tower” wall jump which would prove the key to winning here tonight. Smolders would finish in second behind Ward.
“Rothchild is kind of a small, bouncy horse who is pretty sure-footed,” explained Ward. “I knew I could do one less stride to the last jump, but I didn’t know whether that would win it or lose it. I tried to stay on a nice, even pace everywhere – he is a quick horse – and obviously the inside turn to the wall was very difficult. But you knew that to win, you would have to do it. My horse was good to me and pulled it off.”
McLain Ward also commented on the course design and the crowd tonight, two things which inevitably have an impact on horse and rider. This week’s courses for the International Jumpers have been designed by Alan Wade of Ireland.
“The crowd here is spectacular – it really perks him up and it perks ME up,” said Ward. “Not only is it a great, enthusiastic crowd but also a very horse-sport educated crowd.”
“It was a really good course tonight. I personally think Alan Wade is the best course designer in the world right now. We’ve hired him for our Olympic trials because of that.
I think he builds a really smart test – you can tell that he’s a horseman. It takes a good horse but also a smart rider, and it never puts the horses in a bad situation.”
Earlier in the day, the Royal made a very special announcement regarding their FEI World Cup Grand Prix: that they had received confirmation from the FEI to re-name the class in honour of the passing of Eric Lamaze’s Olympic gold medal partner Hickstead.
From now on, the class will be named the FEI Hickstead World Cup Grand Prix.
“This was the easiest decision we have made,” remarked John Dunlap, President of the Royal. “We would like to thank the FEI, the Fleishhacker family and of course Eric, for their agreement and support.”
Eric Lamaze also wished to express his sincere gratitude, and to particularly thank his Canadian fans for their support at this difficult time.
“I am honoured that the Royal would name the World Cup Grand Prix after Hickstead,” said Eric Lamaze. “When we won the gold and silver medals at the Beijing Olympics, we came to Toronto to celebrate with the Canadian fans and Hickstead won the World Cup. To name it after him is a fitting tribute and a great way for people to always remember him.”
Lamaze added, “I would also like to thank everyone at the Royal and all of the fans for their warm welcome this week. It really meant a lot to have their support.”
$50,000 Weston Canadian Open
1. McLain Ward / USA / Rothchild / 63.58
2. Harrie Smolders / NED / Regina Z / 64.56
3. Laura Kraut / USA / Tierra / 66.57
4. Conor Swail / IRE / Lansdowne / 67.33
5. Margie Engle / USA / Lord Spezi / 71.21