Five-time U.S. Olympian McLain Ward is no stranger to winning the $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm, and he added another victory to his record at the 2024 Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows on Sunday, this time riding Quimi Del Maset. Ward and Sport Four USA LLC’s 10-year-old C.D.E. gelding had a lead of just 0.02 seconds with their speedy, faultless score of 37.82 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 7-12 and May 14-19 that featured the nation’s best in equestrian sport.

Course designer Alan Wade narrowed a field of 35 entries representing six countries to just five entries in the jump-off for Sunday’s $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm, where he presented them with a highly technical 16-effort track set at 1.55m. Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) was first to return for the tiebreaker with Cornet’s Cambridge, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by The Berry Group LLC, and set the time to beat at a blistering 37.84 seconds. Although Ward was able to snag the time in 37.82 seconds, it wasn’t without a heart-stopping moment before the final line.

“Quimi was very good. The lines were getting a little bit quiet for me, and I thought I was behind on the clock and had to make up some time to the second-to-last [fence],” Ward explained. “I think the horse was a little confused on where we were going. This is a very unique venue with grass close to the perimeter of the ring; I think that for a moment, he thought I was sending him out of the ring into the grass and wasn’t even looking to the fence. He stutter-stepped, and we ended up chipping in. It was a bit of a lucky distance, but he made a great athletic move and got out of the way. Sometimes, the horse helps you out and lets you get away with one, and it makes up for the unlucky days.”

Dello Joio and Cornet’s Cambridge ultimately landed in second place after Ward and Quimi’s careful save. “That’s our sport for you,” Ward said. “Nicholas has a long future ahead of him. He’s going to have some great days, and he’s going to have some days where the luck is on his side instead. We train and practice for the moments that we don’t expect, and like I said, Quimi made a great move today. I’m very proud of the horse and all the people around him – his owners, caretakers, everyone who has really believed in his story. I hope we keep developing this horse for great things in the future.”

Quimi Del Maset came into Ward’s barn at the beginning of 2023, and they saw incredible success in their first six months together, including a win in last year’s $65,000 Welcome Stake of North Salem presented by The Kincade Group. Unfortunately, things went a bit off-track when they had a fall during which both Ward and Quimi sustained injuries.

“All the people around the horse have worked very hard to get him back up to this level,” Ward said. “My supporters have believed in his journey and stood by us, and it’s nice to see the last several months really coming together again. I’m thrilled with his performance today.”

Posting the third and final double-clear score was fellow American Lucy Deslauriers, who piloted Luja LLC’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Joevaro N through the timers in 39.75 seconds. Ireland’s Paul O’Shea finished fourth on a four-fault jump-off score with Little Magic D’Asschaut, Trelawny Farm LLC’s 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding. Mark Bluman (COL) and Ubiluc, the 12-year-old Mecklenburg gelding owned by Over The Top Stables LLC with whom he won Friday’s Welcome Stake of North Salem, retired from the jump-off for fifth place. The only Canadian in the class, Erynn Ballard riding Ilan Ferder’s Gakhir, placed 8th.

The afternoon’s Grand Prix opening ceremonies included the naming of the annual Hollow Brook Junior Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes the junior rider who best exemplified integrity, sportsmanship, kindness and honor during the Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows. Willow Wright of Brewster, NY, earned this prestigious award for 2024, adding to her successful competition in the Performance 3’6” Hunter and Large Junior 3’6” Hunter 16-17 divisions. Wright is trained by her mother, Melissa.

Leading up to the $200,000 Empire State Grand Prix presented by Old Salem Farm were Evergate Stables’ Leadline class and several Junior and Amateur Jumper classics to determine the week’s final champions. Sofia Cady of Austin, Texas, and Twist Studio LLC’s ZG Bella repeated their victory from Week 1 in Evergate Stables’ $15,000 SJHOF 1.40m Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic, stopping the clock in the fastest double-clear time of 32.911 seconds.

Wade set a winding 15-effort track for the 40 horse-and-rider combinations entered in Sunday’s Classic, with Cady and ZG Bella holding 1.3 seconds over the nine other competitors who advanced to the jump-off. This win also helped them to secure the 1.40/1.45m Junior/Amateur Jumper Championship for Week 2.

“She did it for me,” Cady said. “She’s perfect. I was lucky this week to have two tries, so I was able to get all my jitters out on my first horse. Then on ZG, I didn’t exactly complete my plan, but she grew wings and I just kept with it. She’s a true winner in her heart. She almost wants it more than you do.

“She’s a pretty naturally fast horse, so I know that as long as I’m tight, tidy and smooth, she’s probably going to cover the time for me,” she added. “She’s a nice, confidence-building horse, knowing that you can trust she’s able to win the class as long as you ride well. She’s already jumped around a few grand prix with me in Wellington over the winter, and then she got a bit of time off while I had to finish college. These last two weeks were about getting back into it, and I’m looking forward to jumping some bigger sticks with her this summer.”

Anniela Gonzalez Del Valle of Wellington, FL, and her Enzo De Laubry Z earned second in 34.235 seconds, while Hilary McNerney of Wellington, FL, finished third in 35.666 seconds aboard her Riscalino.

Results here.