Wellington, Florida, USA – February 11, 2023 – McLain Ward (USA) had a packed house on its feet at the end of a nine-horse jump-off in the CHF $406,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5*during fith week of ‘Saturday Night Lights’ at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). He and Callas had precision and speed in spades to tackle Frank Rothenberger’s (GER) track and win the first CSI 5* event of the WEF season.
There’s another leading lady coming up in Ward’s impressive string of horses. He expertly piloted Callas, a 15-year-old Holsteiner (Casall x Coriano) to the first CSI5* victory of the mare’s career on Saturday. They eclipsed what seemed like an untouchable leading time from Ireland’s Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Volnay du Boisdeville, a 2009 Selle Français stallion (Winningmood x Jalisco B) owned by Vlock Show Stables. Ward clocked in at 44.03 seconds, nearly a second faster that Kenny (45.09).
An even smaller margin separated second and third place, with Kent Farrington (USA) stopping the clock at 45.14 seconds with Landon, a 2013 Zangersheide gelding (Comilfo Plus Z x Quadrillo) owned by Haity MC Nerney.
Ward has been the number-one rider for Callas for about a year, but is no stranger to the mare’s talent after scouting her for previous rider, U.S. Under 25 athlete Annabel Revers. “She’s been knocking on the door, so it’s nice for us to break through and get a big win,” said Ward of the Beechwood Stables owned mare.
“The jump-off was built for us,” enthused Ward. “She cuts a little left and so one, two I could take a straight line. I needed the Hermès to show up well off that rollback. As you saw with everybody, you had to make a sharp turn and it was a bit awkward, but I got away with that one. She performed brilliant.”
With only two to return behind him over the short course, Ward was happy to have names like Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Kent Farrington (IRL) already on the leaderboard. “It’s always easier when you come after riders like Kent. When you go before you do the best round, but when you go after you certainly are at an advantage.”
Darragh Kenny (IRL) and his seasoned mount, Volnay du Boisdeville executed some slick turns in the jump-off to take the lead midway through the order. “He was brilliant again tonight,” said Kenny, who’s hungry to be at the top of a CSI5* podium soon after pocketing a CSI3* grand prix win during opening week of FEI competition at WEF. “I’ve been second in three five stars with him, so at some point I hope we will break through.”
Volnay du Boisdeville’s efforts impressed the Palm Beach County crowd that turned out to take in top sport on Saturday night and Kenny felt the energy. “The atmosphere was unbelievable tonight and it’s hard getting a crowd like that, but this one was amazing.”
After celebrating the healthy retirement of Gazelle, his longtime partner in international show jumping success earlier in the evening, Kent Farrington (USA) jumped onto the grand prix podium. Landon, a mount he’s been campaigning since the horse’s seven-year-old year is now making waves at the highest level.
“I’ve brought him up slow. He’s an incredible jumper. His rideability was a bit difficult; that set some speed limits on me still for the jump-off but he’s learning to go a bit quicker,” said Farrington who won a CSI3* grand prix with Landon on the derby field three weeks earlier. “It was a tremendous performance for him, and this was his first night class here in the big ring. I thought he jumped incredible, so I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Ward was presented as winner of the CHF406,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix by Robert Fessler, Vice President, Financial Consultant, Fidelity Investments®. To close the evening, winning groom and Callas’ caretaker Irvin Perez was honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm, by Claire Stevenson of Double H Farm.
Final Results – CHF $406,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5*
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Callas – 0 / 0 – 44.03
2) Darragh Kenny (IRL) & Volnay du Boisdeville – 0 / 0 – 45.09
3) Kent Farrington (USA) & Landon – 0 / 0 – 45.14
Source: Press Release from Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Wellington International / Sportfot
Categories: CSI 5*, Winter Equestrian Festival