McLain Ward And Quick Star II Z Win $100,000 Lexus NHS Jumper Championship, CSI-W Presented By Chesapeake Petroleum At The 121st National Horse Show & Family Festival

WELLINGTON, FL – December 3, 2004 –

Athens Olympic Team Silver Medallist McLain Ward, 29, of Brewster, NY, aboard Quick Star II Z owned by Double H Farm topped a field of 29 horses to win the $100,000 Lexus National Horse Show Jumper Championship, CSI-W Presented By Chesapeake Petroleum at the evening session of the 121st National Horse Show & Family Festival tonight. Notching the faster performance in a two-horse jump-off, Ward claimed $30,000 and victory over Georgina Bloomberg, 21, of New York, NY, riding Riviera owned by Gotham Enterprizes, who earned $22,000 for second place. Third place and $13,000 went to the Athens Olympic Team Alternate, Alison Firestone, aboard Casanova owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone; Firestone was the only other rider to jump clean in Round One, but she incurred one time fault.


McLain Ward winning $100,000 Lexus Grand Prix with Quick Star II
Photo: Randi Muster

“He’s obviously a great course designer,” Ward said of Conrad Homfeld, who built the demanding tracks. “He’s as good a course designer as he was a horseman and a rider, so it’s a real pleasure to ride his courses. It’s a real test of the rider, more than just the brute power of a horse, which is nice. It’s a thinking course. He built a great test tonight.”

Held as the featured event of “Jumping Under The Stars” in the Internationale Arena, the World Cup qualifying class was contested on grass and under lights. Spectators filled the grass bermed seating around the ring and a black tie dinner was held in the Diamond Horseshoe VIP tent overlooking the competition.

Homfeld built a demanding course of 14 jumps for Round One with Time Allowed adjusted to 87 seconds after the first two riders. Time was a factor for nearly a third of the field as eight riders incurred time faults. Jumps fell throughout the course and 11 riders knocked down only one rail for four faults. It was not until Bloomberg took to the arena as the 19th rider that the crowd saw a clear round, and then just three trips later, Ward clocked in clean, but no others could master the track.

“The course rode very unlike how it walked,” Bloomberg said. “There wasn’t one particular trouble spot, which is also the mark of a good course designer. The rails came all over the course. The double coming home (13ab) was very tight, but really for horses jumping under the lights again, you never know. Some horses misjudge the jumps a little bit.” Going late in the order, Bloomberg said she had the advantage of watching other riders, which helped her with the time allowed. “I really booked it around. I rode much faster than I usually would have like to with him.” Casanova is a 13-year-old Dutch gelding.

Ward’s assessment of Round One concurred. “Combinations are always difficult. I didn’t think the triple (9abc) was that hard tonight but I thought the double was hard. One of the things you have to worry about on a night like tonight is how the shadows are going to affect the horses depending on where the jumps are. You’re always going to get some shadows under lights. My mare’s a pretty brave mare and Georgina’s horse is pretty experienced so that certainly helped. You saw a few horses tonight ‘green up’ a little.” He added, “The lighting is excellent here.”

For the Jump-Off, Homfeld shortened the course to seven obstacles and set the time at 47 seconds. Bloomberg was first to go and put in another clean trip in 42.48 seconds. Ward went next and raced around the course in 38.85 seconds, leaving all the jumps up to clinch the win.

“I decided to just go for a smooth clear round,” Bloomberg said of her performance. “I knew that if McLain was clear, he was going to beat me anyway,” she laughed. “It would have been great to win, but the World Cup points is what means the most and I knew the worst that could happen was that I’d be second, so it was great anyway.” Bloomberg was ninth in the World Cup standings going in to the competition and tonight’s placing will advance her standing.

Ward said wryly that before the Jump-Off he overheard Bloomberg’s coach Jimmy Doyle telling her not to be conservative. “I knew she was going to be swift but also being first in the jump-off, you have to put in a clear round, so she was being smart. Quick Star is a fast horse and one of my fears in the jump-off was that I was going to try and go too fast. I really had to just saddle in and take the time where I thought I needed it. I was thrilled with her.”

Ward only started showing the 10-year-old Dutch mare this year and said she has been getting better and better through their experiences in the ring. “Obviously, this is a big win for her,” he said. Ward was four seconds faster than Bloomberg in the Jump-Off and attributed that to his mare. “My horse is a little bit like a rabbit, so she’s naturally very fast. You saw there were people having time faults in the first round – I didn’t even think about having time faults with her. She hits the ground – her legs are going a million miles an hour. I basically just have a faster horse. I don’t know that I shaved any corners.”

Ward liked the head-to-head finish with only two in the tiebreaker. “This crowd in Wellington is a very horse-educated crowd,” he said. “They understand that this is the pinnacle of the sport and there’s something very exciting about a two- or three-horse jump-off. It shows what a difficult test it is and how great a performance it is to go clear. I thought it was a wonderful class.”

Ward is already qualified for the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas scheduled for April 20-24, 2005, but he does not intend to take Quick Star. Instead he plans to take his Olympic mount Sapphire and also Goldika 559 – both are Double H Farm mares. “I have a tentative outline in the back of my mind, but nothing set in stone at this point,” Ward said. With points not a factor, Ward said his motive in tonight’s class was to finish the year on a good note. “Whether it’s the World Cup or the Computer List, these classes are important and it’s a nice way to finish the season.”

Acknowledging that, “there’s no place like the Garden,” Ward was still positive about the National Horse Show’s move to Florida. A New Yorker with emotional ties to the venue, he recalled that the only time he ever cried over a victory was when he won in New York for the first time at Madison Square Garden in1997. “But this is a great show that Gene [Mische] has put on. Great sponsors. This is a wonderful event and certainly very exciting to win. I have a great sponsor in Double H Farm – the Harrisons. They have a residence here in Wellington so it’s especially nice for them to come and see it.”

For tonight’s victory, Ward was also awarded the Walter B. Devereux Memorial Challenge Trophy donated by Mrs. Ernest Sleddon Bessett, Jr., Mrs. Kris Colvin, and the late Mrs. Walter B. Devereux. As the highest placed international rider, Ward was also honored with the Devereux Perpetual Trophy donated by the late Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Devereux.

 

121ST NATIONAL HORSE SHOW & FAMILY FESTIVAL FAST FACTS
WHAT: 121st National Horse Show & Family Festival
WHEN: November 30 – December 5, 2004
WHERE: Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, Wellington, Florida

TICKETS: 866-NHS-SHOW or on the web at www.nhs.org

THE EVENT:
The 121st National Horse Show & Family Festival is one of two shows produced by The National Horse Show Association of America, Ltd.

HIGHLIGHTS:
AGA Championship, CSI*** presented by Chesapeake Petroleum (December 5)

THE FACILITY:
The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club is the home of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the site of the first outdoor Nations’ Cup held in the United States. The competition areas include the 400’ x 400’ grass Internationale Arena, which is surrounded by bermed seating, chalets, and VIP areas; plus the Bertalan DeNemethy Arena and Grand Hunter Field, both with all weather footing. Amenities include the Diamond Horseshoe Club VIP area.

DIRECTIONS:
Approaching the show grounds from the Florida Turnpike, take Exit #93, Lake Worth Blvd., and travel west, crossing over 441. Travel five miles to South Shore Blvd., turn right on South Shore and proceed one mile to Pierson Road, then turn left at the light. Spectator Entrance is first left, on Equestrian Road. Approaching the show grounds from Interstate I-95, take Exit 49. Travel west on Forest Hill Blvd. 11 miles to South Shore Blvd. Turn left on South Shore and follow to Pierson Road. Turn right at the light on Pierson. Spectator Entrance is first left – Equestrian Road.

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