Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – October 15, 2020 – McLain Ward (USA) and Contagious were uncatchable in the $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 3* yesterday during the fifth week of the Tryon Fall Series at Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort (TIEC).
The Guilherme Jorge (BRA) designed course saw 100 entries challenge the first round, with only six pairs earning the chance to tour the jump-off track. Ward and the 2009 German Sport Horse gelding (Contagio x For Keeps) owned by Beechwood Stables managed to make the best of a tough situation with a field stacked with stiff competition, stopping the short-course timers in 40.4 seconds for the win. The American shared the following thoughts:
“It’s a tough situation. It’s a three-star event, but because of the state of the world and our sport right now, you have 100 [competing] today,” he analyzed. “To me, that was like a five-star 1.55m track. I’m lucky to have a horse like Contagious who’s up to that, but you also saw a lot of horses today who were surprised by it.”
Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) grabbed two top-five placings aboard Gochman Sport Horse LLC entries, piloting Cornwall BH, the 2008 Holsteiner stallion (Con Air x Cambridge), to second on a time of 49.83 seconds, while also claiming fourth aboard Luibanta BH, the 2008 Irish Sport Horse mare (Luidam x Abantos), in a time of 41.56 seconds on four faults.
Darragh Kenny (IRL) rounded out the podium in the irons with the 2007 Holsteiner gelding (Cartani x Heraldik II) owned in partnership with Whiterock Farm Ltd., Carthano, putting in the fastest four-fault round in a time of 41.43 seconds.
Contagious sustained an injury just before the Pan-American Games, and has been slowly coming back to top form this summer, Ward reported. “We took our time and brought him back really thoroughly, and he’s been building up through the summer. He’s really felt like a different horse! I think the time off helped him mature a bit,” he elaborated. “He feels really healthy, and has basically either won or been the fastest in every Grand Prix he’s been in. He’s starting to fire all cylinders.
“He’s a very fast horse, and very careful,” Ward detailed. “If I have a rail down in a jump-off, it’s through a double where maybe I try to do too much. Today, I went fast everywhere and just took a breath at the double. He jumped it beautifully, and then I brought him home. He’s typically quick and it went our way!”
On his return to the venue, Ward noted that COVID-19 restrictions have not dampened competitor experience. “The footing is great, and the facilities are phenomenal. Everybody has made a huge effort here to make this place first-class and to also run it during this difficult time. You can’t help when you walk around here, you see the potential of this facility.”
Reflecting on his own 2020, Ward relayed that he’s hopeful that the future is bright: “This year has been difficult for everyone. Hopefully in the new year, life and sport can start to go back to normal… That’s what we all wish for. In the meantime,” he concluded, “we’re trying to make good decisions for our horses, give them a rest when they need it, build them up when they need it, and be in a good place come 2021 with hopefully the Olympics on the horizon.”
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Source: Press release from TIEC – Tryon International Equestrian Center
Photos: © Sportfot