Wellington, Florida, USA – March 11, 2022 – A full day of elite international competition was slated for the International Arena on Friday, March 11, at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). During WEF 9, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the $37,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.45m CSI5* saw an impressive 68 horse-and-rider combinations contending against the clock but they couldn’t best one of the fastest combinations in the world, Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) and Catoki.
Sixteen nations were represented in the starting field of the single-round speed class designed by Alan Wade (IRL). Wade set a time of 72 seconds allowed, and most entries navigated the time easily. Wednesday’s five-star class winner, Darragh Kenny (IRL), looked set to add another victory to his name for the week, until Bertram Allen (IRL) and his own 10-year-old BE/SEIS mare Emmylou (Billy Mexico x Lupin Z) took to the course. Kenny’s previous leading time of 59.19 seconds with Oakland Ventures LLC’s 11-year-old KWPN mare Gouvernante VDL (Bacardi VDL x Stakkato) lasted until Allen shaved almost two whole seconds off the clock to jump ahead with a time of 57.69 seconds.
The victory looked in the bag for Allen, but nothing was certain with Ward and his speedy mount Catoki as the third from final entry to compete. Upon crossing the timers, the duo once again proved unsurpassable, taking the lead in 57.15 seconds. The duo duplicated their victory in the same class of the same week from the 2021 WEF.
“He has been unbelievable this season, and I think he’s won something almost every time we’ve brought him out,” stated Ward. “Here in Wellington, we are really seeing the maximum of five-star show jumping because of the level of competition. We have had this funneling of the best riders in the world because America is open and people can compete, and it has raised the standards considerably. I thought Alan [Wade] did a great job with today’s course, and I just tried to go fast but take a moment where I needed to and trust his footspeed.”
With several five-star speed class wins and success in the $75,000 Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix already added to their title in the 2022 season, the pair has proved to be a force to reckon with.
“I had known Catoki when he was with a rider from New Jersey, and we thought he could be really competitive,” explained Ward of the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding (Catoki x Caretello B) he co-owns with Marilla Van Beuren and Bob Russell. “We have had to learn about him a bit because he is certainly a different type of horse, but once we did, he has basically been a winning machine. He turns out every day, but we never ride him except for when he is about to go in the show ring, and that seems to be what works best for him. He is a pure adrenaline junkie.”
Allen’s performance stuck in the second-place position, and fellow countryman Kenny rounded out the class’s final lap of honor.
Final Results – $37,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI 5*
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Catoki – 0 / 57.15
2) Bertram Allen (IRL) & Emmylou – 0 / 57.69
3) Darragh Kenny (IRL) & Gouvernante VDL – 0 / 59.19
Source: Press Release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportfot