Wellington, Florida, USA – March 31, 2019 – McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur won the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* yesterday during the twelfth and final week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida, USA.
Lucas Porter (USA) and C Hunter (Cassini II x Absie) were the first of forty combinations to challenge Guilherme Jorge’s (BRA) course.
David Blake (IRL) and Keoki (Catoki x Cassini I) were the first ones to go clear. Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and H5 Quintol (Quintender 2 x Cento) gave the full-house crowd what they were cheering for, securing the jump-off by posting the second penalty-free performance of the night.
The Brazilian was joined by Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Hester, Kent Farrington (USA) and Gazelle, Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z, Laura Kraut (USA) and Confu, Rodrigo Lambre (BRA) and Velini, and McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur.
David Blake (IRL) went for the conservative clear aboard Keoki (Catoki x Cassini I) ,setting the early mark to be challenged by the rest of the finalists, crossing the finish line in 44.363 seconds.
Eduardo Menezes (BRA) took over the lead after guiding Quintol (Quintender 2 x Cento) towards a flawless run 39.693 seconds.
Lucy Deslauriers (USA) & Hester
However, that didn’t hold up for long as Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Hester (Wandor van de Mispelaere x Palestro van de Begijnakker) lowered the time to 39.250 seconds, a mark that would be enough for third-place honors.
Kent Farrington (USA) & Gazelle
Former world number one, Kent Farrington (USA) and Gazelle were even faster, taking the lead with a fault-free blistering performance in 37.827 seconds.
Both Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z and Rodrigo Lambre (BRA) and Velini had one rail down each trying to be faster while Laura Kraut (USA) and Confu were eliminated due to a refusal that caused the American to fall off from her horse.
McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur had failed to capitalize on several opportunities they had had throughout the circuit, missing out due to unlucky rails down, but this time, the luck of the draw provided them with another chance.
As the last ones to go in the tiebreaker, the American used the long strides of Double H Farm‘s 13-year-old bay Belgian Sport Horse mare (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui van de Zuuthoeve), being faster in most parts of the jump-off track while still doing the two rollbacks tightly, earning the victory in 37.420 seconds.
Podium: Kent Farrington (USA), McLain Ward (USA), and Lucy Deslauriers (USA) on the podium, joined by Kyle Younghans, Sports Marketing Manager of Rolex Watch USA, Quentin Judge, Jeannie Harrison, Marsha Dammerman, Cayce Harrison, and ringmaster Steve Rector.
On the Win & HH Azur
“I’m really excited for Azur, all of her owners. It’s been a long road back since she was injured last summer. Obviously, one of the best horses in the world, and her not being fit and healthy for the WEG was a huge disappointment to everybody involved with her. It’s a real testament to Tim Ober, our vet; Mikey Boylan and Lee McKeever and his team, who really brought this mare back, obviously back to the top sport.
“Coming back this winter, we’ve had a little bit of four fault-itis. I thought she jumped really great in the five-star a few weeks ago here and had kind of a funny rail down. Then I made a mistake in California in the $1 Million Grand Prix. So, it was nice to put it together. I think she’s been in good form, but finally I put it together to not make a mistake. Great for everybody involved.”
On the Jump-off
“I can pretty much guess if he’s clean how fast he went. I didn’t get to see. As I said earlier, I really do, with all the respect, use him as a barometer. I come to shows sometimes and think, ‘Okay, if I can beat him, I’m going to be near the top or at the top.’ I say that with the utmost respect.”
“The jump off set up well for my horse. I have a bigger stride than he has, and I knew I could do six from two to three. I thought I could cut back on the double maybe a bit faster. The rollback didn’t show up, I was losing to the left, and I had to add one and kind of was dealing cards. I figured there was nothing to lose. It looked far away about six or seven strides out, but she covered it beautifully. Let’s be honest, it was a half an inch. It was great sport. Sometimes he’s in this seat, and sometimes, I’m in that seat. It goes both ways.
On the Build-up to the Class with HH Azur
Actually, a couple of times in this class, I’ve been clear with third horse I had in the show because two of the others something happened. The year Carlos won, he was supposed to do the speed classes. Last year, I was clear with Jen Gates’ mare Hija, and she was only supposed to do the WEF, but I had another horse get hurt. It’s kind of been a little bit the end of a long season of woes. But yes, it was always the plan to try to aim toward this. Obviously my original plan was Clinta for the World Cup Finals; unfortunately, she sustained an injury and is going to be out for awhile, so I’m skipping the World Cup. I decided not to deviate from the plan and send Azur to the World Cup. I figured stay with this; she has a long season and is still on the way back. This is how it worked out.
On being Lucy Deslauriers’ Trainer
Her father Mario is her trainer. I just keep the peace. She’s amazing. Super intelligent, smart rider, great sympathy with the horses. Her mother was a brilliant rider and had a great sympathy with the horses. They jump for her; they try for her. Mario has been incredibly invested in her career and done a brilliant job from the days that she was on ponies all the way through the jumpers. I’m another influence, proud to be, kind of keep her head straight. She’s doing a really difficult thing right now with very difficult school obligations and then trying to compete at this level. I hope to support and be a small part of her success and very proud to see her do so well.
On the Jump-off
Like McLain said, we’re great competitors, and we’re friends. I know if he’s coming at the end of the class, it’s going to take everything usually to win. He’s on one of his best horses and one of the best horses in the world. I tried to go as fast as I could go without being completely reckless. He has a bigger stride, so I thought on my rollbacks, I did the maximum that that horse could do. I think today’s jump off suited a bigger strided horse, but it was very close at the end. He had a tremendous round. I think it was an unbelievable effort from him and his horse. Unfortunately, we ended up second today.
Meaning of Being a Rolex Testimonee & Showing in this Class
I think Rolex has raised the whole level of the sport, especially here at this venue. As an athlete, it’s one of the greatest sort of achievements; I’m very proud to be a Rolex ambassador. They do a lot for the sport worldwide. They’ve historically been a big sponsor of the sport and continue to do so. I think we’re all very lucky to have them involved and to raise the level of the sport to where it is today.
Plans for the Future
My plan here was with my more experienced horses was not to show them very much. I think Gazelle’s total classes jumped was six. So I really tried to gear her up here just for the summer in Europe. Same with Creedance, who is my other experienced horse. I tried to have a light schedule with them that I can peak them for a big event but not use them too heavy during the winter.
On Regrouping & Her Great Performance
I think at the beginning of the week I was definitely a little out of practice. Mentally – without being in the ring for a few weeks. I really tried to just regroup. I came back and jumped the WEF, and the horse felt great. I knew it was just up to me to stay out of his way coming into tonight. I just really tried to stick to the plan, do everything I could, and I knew he’d be right there with me. I’m thrilled.
How She Rates the Moment Among Her Career Highlights
I can’t complain at all when you’re sitting next to two of the best in the world. I’ve looked up to both of them for forever, since I’ve ridden and been involved in the sport. To be sitting up here next to them is pretty surreal.
Questionably one of the top (moments in her showjumping career), if not the top moment. I think not only as prestigious as this class is, but to be sitting next to these two for sure.
On Preparing for the Class & Plans for the Future
I was really planning for this class for the whole circuit. I’ve been in and out, back and forth from school a bit, really relying on Hester and our long partnership to be here and to be on the podium. Going forward, I’ll go back to school for about a month and half, won’t ride very much, and then will just sort of try to gear back up and get ready for the Spruce summer series.
On the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix as the Grand Finale
First, I want to thank the athletes. It was probably the biggest crowd that we’ve ever had here. If you walked around, it was 10 people deep across the whole back property. To put on the show that they put on with the three great athletes here – a new generation and two of the most gifted athletes in the sport to go out there and compete at this level is just absolutely fantastic.
I want to thank Rolex. Rolex has continued to be a great sponsor for the sport and for this venue. To see the level of competition, which will be on an NBC broadcast for this event, I think is great for the sport, the promotion of the sport. I’m just very happy. When you see all the four five-stars, and I think four different winners in the event. I think that there’s just a great opportunity here for the venue and for the sport. We’re excited about it. I think that we’re going to take a really great look at what we’re doing here because clearly we have to make some pretty significant refinements because we’re turning away spectators at this point in time which I think is unheard of in this country. I think we’ll look at investing a significant amount of resources in this venue over the six to eight months. We’re excited that we’re able to attract the athletes that we have and the level of competition that we saw tonight. So thank you guys and gals for putting on a great show.
Final Results – $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*
Place / Rider (Country) & Horse (Sire x Dam Sire) – R1 Penalties / Jump-off Penalties | Time
1) McLain Ward (USA) & HH Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui van de Zuuthoeve) – 0 / 0 | 37.420
2) Kent Farrington (USA) & Gazelle (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Indoctro) – 0 / 0 | 37.827
3) Lucy Deslauriers (USA) & Hester (Wandor van de Mispelaere x Palestro vd Begijnakker) – 0 / 0| 39.250
4) Eduardo Menezes (BRA) & H5 Quintol (Quintender 2 x Cento) – 0 / 0 | 39.693
5) David Blake (IRL) & Keoki (Catoki x Cassini I) – 0 / 0 | 44.363
6) Daniel Bluman (ISR) & Ladriano Z (Lawito x Baloubet du Rouet) – 0 / 4 | 39.093
7) Rodrigo Lambre (BRA) & Velini (Cheers Cassini x Kigali) – 0 / 4 | 40.151
8) Laura Kraut (USA) & Confu (Contact Me x Cambridge) – 0 | EL
9) Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) & Charmeur (Numero Uno x Gelha’s VDL Emilion) – 4 | 77.69
10) Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & Indra van de Oude Heihoef (Casantos x Action-Breaker) – 4 | 77.75
11) Nayel Nassar (EGY) & Lucifer V (Lord Dezi x Grandeur) – 4 | 77.93
12) Eric Lamaze (CAN) & Chacco Kid (Chacco Blue x Come On) – 4 | 78.83
Interview: Transcript by Emily Riden for Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
For full results, please click here.
Photos: © Sportfot