Wellington, Florida, USA – February 24, 2021 – On the opening day of week seven at the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), McLain Ward (USA) and Catoki, owned by Marilla van Beuren, Bob Russell, and McLain Ward, took home the title in the $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI 5* held in the International Arena on Wednesday, February 24, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
Wednesday’s two-phase competition featured the work of course designers Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) and Andy Christiansen (ECU), with 49 combinations contesting. Ward and the 12-year-old Holsteiner (Catoki x Cartello B), raced to the finish line, leaving all the jumps up in a time of 28.86 seconds.
“He’s a very fast horse,” said Ward. “He doesn’t actually have the biggest stride but his legs are moving very quick so that allows you to just do your round. You don’t have to do anything extreme; he’s just such a fast type. You’re not really pushing the envelope a lot, and that’s why he’s so consistently at the top of these classes.”
Just one-tenth of a second behind was Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam (IRL) with his ride for The Blue Buckle Group, Indra Van De Oude Heihoef, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Casantos x Action-Breaker), stopping the clock at 28.96 seconds.
Meanwhile fellow Irishman Daniel Coyle (IRL) found himself on the podium in third place with Amalia, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Arezzo Vdl x Kyacinthe) owned by Ariel Grange, finishing in 29.02 seconds
Ward and Catoki have already had success during the winter circuit picking up a grand prix win during WEF Premiere week along with a second-place finish in the $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI 5* during WEF 5. While their success in the ring is proven, their preparation for the horse show is anything but conventional.
“We just turn him out,” said Ward. “I never ride him between shows. He lunges a tiny bit on the day he shows but you can’t really do much with him but show. Once he starts jumping, he’s so eager, so aggressive, we just try to mellow him out and let him put a little weight on. He’s like a little racehorse. We try to just keep everything low key and trust that he knows his job when he competes.
“He feels most days that he’s going to make a good effort,” Ward continued. “The warmup is interesting. He trots around like he could do the children’s hunter class; you can’t make him go, and as soon as you pick up the canter to the first jump, he’s kind of off to the races. We just try to manage that, not do very much, and stay out of his way.”
As the page turns to the second half of the 2021 WEF, the caliber of competition in attendance this year remains at the highest level. With perhaps the most competitive group of riders at WEF to date, even Ward, currently ranked number 14 in the world, is feeling the heat.
“The best in the world and more have funneled here right now,” he said. “We’re fantastically lucky that we’re able to be up and running and compete with all the precautions and people that are making it possible. We’re all very grateful. On one hand, it’s great to really push the envelope as far as the level of the sport and have the best [here]; but on the other hand, it’s hard to win and you’re really on the line all the time.”
Earlier in the day, Lillie Keenan (USA) and Adelita, owned by Helen Signe Ostby, jumped into the winner’s circle, taking home top honors in the $1,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.40m Jumpers CSI5*. Keenan and the 2011 SSW mare by Candillo 3 x Acord II, captured the win with a double-clear effort over the two-phase course, finishing in 31.61 seconds.
WEF 7 features CSI5* competition sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, along with a concurrent CSI2* from February 24-28. The week continues with Thursday’s $73,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 7, the $37,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.45m Classic CSI5* and $37,000 Griffis Residential 1.45m Qualifier CSI2* on Friday, the $401,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI5* as part of “Saturday Night Lights,” and the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI5* and $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix CSI2* on Sunday.
Hunter competition will be highlighted on the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village on Friday, February 26, in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, with the professional section presented by Restylane and a junior/amateur section. Spectators can watch feature classes live and on demand for free using the livestream.
Final Results: $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI 5*
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Catoki – 0 / 0 – 28.864
2) Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & Indra Van de Oude Heihoef – 0 / 0 – 28.965
3) Daniel Coyle (IRL) & Amalia – 0 / 0 – 29.02
Source: Press release by Jennifer Wood & Sabrina Bashares / Jennifer Wood Media Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / PBIEC – Palm Beach International Equestrian Center
Photos: © Sportfot