It was another marquee win in Tryon for McLain Ward (USA) with Noche de Ronda after racing to win the $384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI 5* at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) at Tryon Resort, halting the jump-off timers in 32.837 seconds. Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX) piloted Armani SL Z, a 2008 Zangersheide gelding (Cumlaude Z x Cumano) owned by David & Monica Garza, to a close second with a jump-off performance of 32.994 seconds, while third-place honors went to Kristen VanderVeen (USA) and Bull Run’s Risen, a 2006 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Utopie x Indoctro) owned by Bull Run Jumpers, Inc., who put in a 33.68-second jump-off ride to secure the podium finish.
The crown jewel of competitions held at TIEC every fall series, the $384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI 5* was moved from 7pm to 2pm ahead of significant rain in the region, but the competition could not be dampened as 50 of the world’s best challenged the Guilherme Jorge (BRA) track. Twelve pairs qualified for the jump-off test, and following a blazing round from Garza Perez, Ward was last to go piloting the Bob Russell-owned 2009 Oldenburg mare (Quintender x Loves Corinth).
“I knew when I saw Eugenio’s time that it was a tough task. He’s a fast rider, on a very efficient horse that doesn’t waste time. My horse is a bit of a bigger, slower horse, so I knew I was going to need to use my stride,” Ward detailed. “For [fences] one, two, and three, it was a little bit on the extreme edge – a lesser horse probably would have crashed at fence three, but she’s got incredible scope. And then, I just tried to stay to the plan on the rest of the way home.
“I mean, it’s not even a half-inch difference; sometimes you come out on top and sometimes you’re second, and there’s no difference in the rounds, to be frank,” said Ward. “My week’s been a little slow – I had a time fault earlier in the week. It’s been very relaxing here – Tryon has always been very good to me. The horses have been jumping well, but we just haven’t been winning a lot of prizes. So, it was nice to turn that around today on the best day of the week!”
Ward returned to the venue for Tryon Fall 5 competition for the first time since clinching an iconic gold medal with Team USA at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, and noted that the memories rooted at the facility are still fresh:
“Like I said, Tryon has been very good to me. There’s no doubt that what we were able to accomplish last year was a career and life moment – not only to win on the team, but how much that team was around my neck, so to speak, and that’ll be with us forever,” he stated. “It’s a great venue here, and even in not great weather conditions, people come out to support and the community is very behind us, and that always makes you want to be at your best. We have some great friends in this area, and it’s always nice to come back and spend a bit of time here.”
For Garza Perez, the rounds put on the board before him in the jump-off didn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that Ward would ride right behind him, he admitted:
“When you have that guy behind you, you kind of have to go all out! It doesn’t matter what horse he’s on. He could be on foot and he’s probably going to be faster than you! I tried to go as fast as possible and play to the strengths of my horse. [Armani SL Z] was phenomenal today, and I couldn’t have asked more of him,” Garza Perez relayed.
“For sure, I think it was a great decision to move the class forward – none of us want to get wet – and like McLain said, by the end of the class, the footing held up. It was fun to ride, and a tricky course. It’s been a great week here,” he continued. “We always like to come to Tryon these few weeks – the weather is amazing, the horses like it here, and it’s not too far from home – home being Wellington, [FL]. It’s a nice way to finish off the year – this will be the last show for us. It was fun.”
VanderVeen, who’s seen great success at the venue, particularly in CSI 5* competition, noted that her podium finish was a great way to cap a week of strong rides. “I always love spending time in Tryon – we spend a lot of time here. The week has been great: I’ve been very close in a few of the classes now, but not quite hitting, so it was great for everything to all come together tonight.”
In addition to landing on the podium, VanderVeen received the Leading Lady Rider Award presented by Adi Kissilevich for her top performances throughout the week. The Leading Lady Rider Award consists of a handmade handbag from Kissilevich’s signature collection, and is calculated among FEI competitors across Welcome Stake and Grand Prix competition each week.
$384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI 5*
Horse Name, Year Breed gender (Sire x Sire of Dam)
Rider (COUNTRY), Owner: Faults/Faults/Time
1) Noche de Ronda, 2009 Oldenburg mare (Quintender x Loves Corinth) McLain Ward (USA), Bob Russell: 0/0/32.837
2) Armani SL Z, 2008 Zangersheide gelding (Cumlaude Z x Cumano) Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX), David & Monica Garza: 0/0/32.994
3) Bull Run’s Risen, 2006 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Utopie x Indoctro) Kristen VanderVeen (USA), Bull Run Jumpers, Inc.: 0/0/33.68
4) Farrel, 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Becherry x Unknown) Daniel Coyle (IRL), Ariel Grange: 0/0/35.262
5) Armik, 2009 Oldenburg gelding (Armitage x Justinian xx) Captain Brian Cournane (IRL), Captain Brian Cournane: 0/0/35.33
6) Valkyrie De Talma, 2009 Selle Francais mare (Diamant De Semilly x Cento) Rachel Cornacchia (CAN), Eventyre Farms Ltd.: 0/0/35.59
7) Keoki, 2009 Holsteiner gelding (Catoki x Cassini I) David Blake (IRL), Pine Hollow Farm: 0/0/36.66
8) Skyhorse, 2007 Belgium Warmblood gelding (Calvaro x Quidam de Revel) Lillie Keenan (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/0/37.78
9) Grand Cru Vd Vijf Eiken, 2006 Belgian Warmblood stallion (Contact Van De Heffinck x Heartbreaker) Vanessa Mannix (CAN), Vanessa Mannx: 0/0/39.11
10) Gazelle, 2006 Belgium Warmblood mare (Kashmir Van Schuttersshof x Indoctro) Kent Farrington (USA), Kent Farrington & Robin Parsky: 0/4/35.807
11) Count Me In, 2007 Hannoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) Beth Underhill (CAN), Sandy Lupton: 0/4/37.36
12) Igor Van De Heibos, 2008 Belgium Warmblood stallion (Lord Z x Lys de Darmen) Tracy Fenney (USA), MTM Farm: 0/4/37.6
For full results from the $384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI 5* Grand Prix CSI 5*, click here.