Wellington, Florida, USA – February 3, 2022 – International competition resumed Thursday, with athletes from across the globe setting up to challenge the track on the Derby Field at Equestrian Village. Week 4, sponsored by The Bainbridge Companies, is the second week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) circuit to feature FEIl classes on the turf. The highlight event of the day was the $50,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round IV CSI 4* which saw 65 of the world’s best combinations. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) once again saved the best for last as the final contender to return and captured the victory aboard successful partner, Contagious, owned by Beechwood Stables.
Anderson Lima (BRA) designed the two-round test and at the halfway mark only seven entries were lined up for the return. By the end of the first round,12 of the original field had qualified for the jump-off, but three entries – made up of Kent Farrington, Margie Goldstein-Engle, and Carlos Hank Guerreiro – chose to save their jumps for another day and withdrew. The nine pairs that remained represented the United States, Egypt, Brazil, Spain, and Mexico.
Each duo gave it their best effort and the lead was exchanged several times, but Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and his own 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Malibu de Muze (Nabab De Reve x Tornedo FCS) had a flawless round with a time of 43.34 seconds. However, the victory was not yet sealed and, as the last to take the field, McLain Ward (USA) once again proved his skill with an effortless round, shaving almost an entire second off of the previous leading time in 42.57 seconds.
“As we get further into the circuit, the level of competition for these qualifiers gets significantly stronger,” stated Ward. “I thought Anderson [Lima] did a great job with the course today, and this field is interesting because it is quite beautiful but there are a lot of distractions for the horses. Today’s course was impressive, and I was fortunate to be in the last position of both phases because I had a very clear idea of what I needed to do.”
Ward has seen his share of victories aboard the 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Contagio x For Keeps), including the team silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, and credits his partner’s experience as part of his success.
“I was able to catch the first to second fence pretty fast, and I didn’t catch fence three how I wanted but Contagious handled it well,” explained Ward. “Then on the final three fences I just tried to keep everything together because I felt like I was on track or close to the time so I did not want to do anything risky. Contagious has been out here on the grass quite a lot and is pretty comfortable out here, but for the younger horses it can certainly be a bit more of a challenge.”
Moya held on to the runner-up position while Chloe Reid (USA) shot into the third-place position. Reid and Souper Shuttle (Stakkato x Luise Marie), an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Live Oak Plantation LLC, ticked in on the timers only 0.03 seconds behind Moya for a final time of 43.46 seconds.
Final Results – $50,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup Rd IV CSI 4*
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Contagious – 0 / 0 – 42.57
2) Sergio Álvarez (GBR) & Malibu De Muze – 0 / 0 – 43.34
3) Chloe Reid (USA) & Souper Shuttle – 0 / 0 – 43.46
Source: Press Release by Summer Grace & Amanda Picciotto Feitosa Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / WEF – Winter Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Sportfot