Wellington, Florida, USA – March 30, 2022 – The final week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) jumped into a week of intense action on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. The series concludes its 13 weeks with international five-star and two-star level riders taking to the turf at Equestrian Village for one final turn on the grass. 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team silver medalist McLain Ward (USA) won Wednesday’s featured event, the $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI5*, with top mount Noche de Ronda.
Guilherme Jorge (BRA) designed a flowing track that used a vast majority of the field to test its 54 contenders. The two-phase course included a total of 15 obstacles with the first phase to be completed in 44 seconds and the second phase having a time allowed of 43 seconds. Jorge’s elements included several double combinations as well as a water obstacle to test some of the world’s best competitors. Eleven nations were represented in the original starting lineup with Mexico’s Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX) holding on to the lead at the halfway mark of the event.
Ward piloted the 13-year-old Oldenburg mare Noche de Ronda (Quintender 2 x Lovis Corinth), a horse he co-owns with Marilla Van Beuren and Bob Russell, to the top position after the pair stopped the clock fault-free and with a time of 30.81 seconds.
“She is just coming back from an injury she got last year, and she has been jumping well but just having an unlucky four faults here and there,” described Ward of his mount. “We thought we would give her one more time out on this field this season, and she seems to be feeling quite well.”
For Ward, the victory came at one particular place on course.
“I think where we took over was when we did the inside slice to the double combination,” he explained. “If it had been a single it wouldn’t have been that challenging, but with it being a combination it was definitely risky. She’s also got a huge stride that I use to my advantage out here. It was a huge loss not having her in our string last year, but she looks like she has a good year ahead of her.”
As the second to last combination to go, Sweden’s Petronella Andersson (SWE) shot into the second-place position aboard Nithard Van De Peerdenhoeve. Andersson and the Stephex Stables’ nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Zirocco Blue VDL x Corland) were the only other combination to produce a time under 31 seconds as they landed without fault in 30.99 seconds.
California resident Karl Cook (USA) put forth a good round and rounded out the top three after riding to a time of 31.77 seconds with Helen Signe Ostby’s 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet (Thunder VD Zuuthoeve x Flipper d’Elle).
WEF 12 will resume on Thursday, March 31, at both Wellington International and Equestrian Village. A variety of nationally-rated hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions will take place across the grounds of Wellington International, including the WEF Equitation Championship, presented by NetJets at 5 p.m. in the International Arena, while top international riders will return to the Derby Field for another full day of FEI two-star and five-star events.
The highlight of the WEF 12 and the 2022 WEF circuit is the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, April 2, at 11 a.m. ET. While there is no “Saturday Night Lights” event for WEF 12, fans of equestrian sport are welcomed to cheer on horses and riders at the $35,000 Wellington National Golf Club Spring 1 Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Noche de Ronda – 0 / 0 – 30.81
2) Petronella Andersson (SWE) & Nithard van de Peerdenhoeve – 0 / 0 – 30.99
3) Karl Cook (USA) & Kalinka van’T Zorgvliet – 0 / 0 – 31.77
Source: Press Release by Summer Grace / Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / WEF – Winter Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Sportfot