McLain Ward & Adrienne Sternlicht Shine in $230,000 Adequan MLSJ Grand Prix CSI 5* at Thermal

Thermal, California, USA – December 11, 2021 – CSI 5* show jumping came to a thrilling culmination on Saturday night with the $230,000 Adequan® Major League Show Jumping Grand Prix CSI 5*, presented by Essence Art Gallery. Riders set out under the lights of the Grand Prix Arena at Desert International Horse Park to not only claim the top spot in the class and take the lion’s share of the prize money, but also to vie for the coveted leading rider title for the inaugural year of Major League Show Jumping. Winning the class on Saturday evening was Ireland’s Jordan Coyle with Ariso, and topping the season-long standings after top performances in various locations across North America was fellow Irishman Paul O’Shea (IRL).

With a field of 37 international athletes coming forward to test the track, Ireland’s Alan Wade, with the help of Peter Grant (CAN), Nick Granat (USA), Joe Rycroft (USA), and Jared Erho (USA), set a course to challenge the best of the best equestrian athletes from around the world, featuring a course of 14 numbered obstacles that included long bending lines, a vertical-oxer double combination, a triple bar oxer, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination, a solid stone wall out of a short turn. 

It took 17 entries to get to the first of an eventual nine clear rounds that would complete the final jump-off. Canadian Sam Walker (CAN) and Hermelion VD Hooghoeve crossed the timers within the time allowed for the first time while keeping all rails intact. Coming back for the jump-off first, Walker and his mount had a miscommunication at fence two and retired from the jump-off round. American Karl Cook (USA) came in visibly hungry to win, but lowered the top rails of two fences on the short course along the way. Next to challenge the track was Canada’s Amy Millar (CAN). After a strong start, she unfortunately took down the vertical at fence three, after a tight rollback, which overtook the lead after the first three had gone. 

Egypt’s Nayel Nassar (EGY), on a roll in CSI2* competition during Desert Holiday, came into the ring on Igor van de Wittemoere with a vengeance after his third place finish in the $72,900 Welcome CSI 5*. He expertly maneuvered around the course in 34.77 seconds, the fastest at this point, but lowered the vertical coming out of the remaining combination for a score of 4 faults. Ireland captured the lead as Jordan Coyle (IRL) and Ariso managed the track fault-free in an ultimately unbeatable time of 34.49 seconds, with just four entries left to challenge him.

Margie Engle (USA) and Royce came in quick but fell victim to the double combination yet again for a score of 4 faults and sliding into third place. Kristen VanderVeen (USA) let Bull Run’s Risen expand his stride to its limit to cover the ground and chase the win, but dropped two rails along the way with only two riders for the USA left to contend.

The highest ranked rider in the field at number 12 in the world, McLain Ward (USA) put in a solid clear round in 41.02 seconds with Kasper Van Het Hellehof and secured the second spot.

With only his student and 2018 World Equestrian Games teammate Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) to give the short course a go. Sternlicht piloted Bennys Legacy around the course as fast as she could, subtracting strides and wrapping around the tight bends, but dropped the final rail to finish on a score of 4 faults and finishing third overall.

Final Results – $230,000 Adequan® Major League Show Jumping Grand Prix CSI 5*

1) Jordan Coyle (IRL) & Ariso – 0 / 0 – 34.49

2) McLain Ward (USA) & Kasper van het Hellehof – 0 / 0 – 41.02

3) Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) & Bennys Legacy – 0 / 0 – 34.55

Source: Press Release by Tori Bilas / Phelps Media Group for Desert International Horse Park

Photos: © Phelps Sports / Tori Bilas / Olivia Airhart