There have been three CSI 5* $132,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cups at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), and 2017 FEI World Cup Finals winner McLain Ward has led the victory gallop at each one. He repeated his WEF 7 win on Thursday, March 8, with Evergate Stable LLC’s Hija van Strokapelleken at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL.
The ninth week of competition at WEF runs March 7-11. Jumper highlights include the $384,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI 5* beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, and the $50,000 Rose Hill Farm Grand Prix CSI 2* on Sunday, March 11. Hunter highlights include the $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby on Friday, March 9, and the $10,000 USHJA National Derby on Saturday, March 10; both events will be held on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village (home of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival – 13500 South Shore Blvd.). WEF hosts hunter, jumper, and equitation competition until April 1 and offers more than $9 million in prize money.
The 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ course designer, Alan Wade of Ireland, set “by far the strongest track we’ve had in the WEF [Challenge Cup] series,” said Ward, but it did allow 13 horse and rider combinations through to the jump-off out of an opening field of 50 entries.
“It was a big track; I was actually very surprised at how many clear rounds there were,” added Ward.
Going second to last in the jump-off, Ward and Hija van Strokapelleken, an 11-year-old BWP – Belgian Warmblood mare by Calido I x Azur de Paulstra, sped through the track using the mare’s giant stride. Ward planned to do seven strides down the last line, but he had to make a last-minute adjustment to the final fence. They were still able to record the fastest time in the class with a clear round in 39.37 seconds. This was the pair’s second WEF Challenge Cup win this season; Ward also won the class during WEF 5 with HH Azur.
Second place went to the early leaders in the jump-off, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Chaqui Z, who went first and stopped the timers in 40.48 seconds. The WEF 7 five-star grand prix winners, Danielle Goldstein (ISR) and Lizziemary, owned by The Golden Group and Danielle Goldstein, were third in 40.68 seconds.
“She’s more adjustable than I thought!” laughed Ward. “The mare jumped beautifully in the first round. Both Devin [Ryan’s horse] and mine have big strides, so I was interested watching him. We both got the seven [strides] from one to two. I thought there was a seven to the last [jump]. I got a great jump into the line, the one I wanted, and at about stride five and three-quarters [strides], I went, ‘I’m going to crash.’ I put the handbrake on and most horses should have cantered right through the fence. She made a hell of a move to jump it. She’s always trying for you.”
While Hija’s place in Ward’s string is not guaranteed due to her for sale status, Ward said he is “really honored to ride her; I love riding the horse.”
He continued, “She’s been winning as much as any horse in the world over the last couple of months. There’s always a very good chance she gets sold, which is the goal, but until then I’m really loving every bit of her and she’s performing very beautifully.”
With an official recount done of WEF Challenge Cup winners in the history of the class, Ward now stands tied at 27 wins in the series history with Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze of Canada.
Source: Press Release by Jennifer Wood Media by Jennifer Wood Media Inc. for ESP/ WEF
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