Twice Is Nice for McLain Ward during Horseware Ireland Week at WEF

Last Updated on March 17, 2024 by adminahb

McLain Ward & Contagious © Sportfot

U.S. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward won his second feature of the week in the $215,000 Horseware Ireland CSI4* Grand Prix during the Winter Equestrian Festival’s (WEF) ‘Saturday Night Lights’ at Wellington International. Ward led the victory gallop aboard Contagious, the 15-year-old Rhinelander gelding owned by Beechwood Stables that also carried him to team silver at the Tokyo Olympics and most recently team gold at the Pan American Games in Chile last summer.

Ward was elated with the seasoned gelding’s performance, noting, “Contagious (Contagio x For Keeps) has been a great partner and I’m very grateful to Beachwood and Lise Revers for having the horse be with me for his whole career. He’s getting older now and it’s a little more work, but he’s got a huge heart.

“He’s had a bit of four-fault-itis here in Florida, two great grand prix with one down, but I felt that he’d jump well tonight. It was a very hot night and a quick turnaround for us,” continued Ward, who jumped last in both rounds. “I only jumped three jumps in the schooling area because I didn’t want to let him bottom out. He dug in deep and we were lucky to go last.”

Only three horses jumped clear over Oscar Soberon’s (USA) challenging track. U.S. Olympic team silver medalist Lucy Davis led the way with new mount Ben 431 and was later joined by Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts aboard Derby de Riverland and Ward from final draw. Ward’s jump-off time of 43.24 seconds handed him the win over Philippaerts in 44.19 seconds. Davis settled for third after pulling a rail in the short course.

Of the difficult track, Ward recalled, “When I walked, I thought the jumps were placed so you couldn’t get quite straight and were always coming in at a bit of an angle. Interestingly enough, you had two very experienced horses go clear. Nicola’s horse is a younger horse but very talented and he’s a very good rider. I thought there’d be a few more clear, but it proved to be challenging and the time [allowed] was just enough to force mistakes.

“You can have a little rub, have four faults and be very frustrated, or if that same rail stays up, you win the grand prix and you’re a hero,” said Ward of his fight for top finishes at the season’s close. “It’s a fine line, but I’m grateful to the horses and to be able to keep banging heads with these riders.”

Wellington International

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