McLain Ward and Lauren Hough Achieve Big Wins During Opening Week of the Jacksonville Winter Series
RELEASE: January 24, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robbi Meisel
The opening week of the 2008 Jacksonville Winter Series got off with a warm welcome to exhibitors, especially McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, with new mount Phillipa, who won the $24,777 Lucky Sevens Welcome Jumper Classic sponsored by Privett and Associates.
McLain and the 10-year-old flashy chestnut Phillipa are no strangers to winning, despite their young partnership of nine months. “The last two and half months she’s really come on strong!” an exuberant Ward said of the Warmblood mare. Strong indeed, winning the $75,000 Syracuse Budweiser CSI-W Prix and most recently the $100,000 National Show Jumping Championship CSI-W in Wellington. “She’s still a little green,” McLain quipped, “but she’s figuring it out quite quickly!” Taking on a field of 26 world-class athletes, Ward was one of only eight to make the final jump-off round.
Dave Ballard of Ontario, Canada, returned as course designer for the opening week events. His resume includes being one of the few O class designers in the world; he assisted Linda Allen at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA, was the designer for the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada, and was assistant designer for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
The course for the January 18th event was a first-round technical layout of 13 obstacles at regulation 1.45 meters (maximum height 4’9”) with a time allowance of 89 seconds. “I created a course that’s testing enough when taking into consideration it’s early in the season and expecting many of the horses to be fresh after the December time most had off,” Ballard explained. The tracks were a little long with sweeping turns. A triple [oxer to vertical to vertical] set practically in the audience’s lap turned out to be far less a threat to the competitors than the seemingly simple #4 oxer that cost many a rider their invite to the last round. “The triple wasn’t too big, but it had a spooky panel under B [the first vertical in],” Ward said of the first-round layout.
Phillipa, owned by Sagamore Farms, had no trouble passing the first-round test in nearly four seconds below the allotted 89 with a clear time of 85.145. “The course was big enough; it’s very early in the season so it’s a very hard time for us because we’ve rested for a while now. So everything looks big when you come back!” McLain began about his journey around the arena. “It was very fair, we had eight clear, which I think that’s a perfect numbe,r and you set up for a nice class tomorrow,” he said referencing the huge $75,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W Grand Prix on Saturday evening.
Going into the final round of six obstacles—seven efforts—proved to be a challenge of speed versus strategy. The question for most of the competitors became whether to go for it or ride smarter and save the speed for the next day's bigger purse. “Despite being a scopey horse she’s very quick. I knew the others would be conservative too, but I let her gallop along to take off a little bit of the edge,” McLain explained his choices. “I never really opened her up anywhere, just turned in tight to the combination. I actually added [strides] up to the last two fences,” he chuckled, and added, “Besides I’ve gotta earn a paycheck.” Neither rider nor horse were winded or worn after posting a clear winning time of 38.287 seconds as they headed back for a comfortable night in the barn.
Rounding out the top five positions for the Welcome Classic were: in second place Casadora ridden by Lauren Hough for owner Meredith Mateo with a clear round time of 38.672. Third place went to Rodrigo Pessoa with Rufus for owner Double H Farm in a clean 39.204 seconds. The fourth position went to Todd Minikus on board Ultimo Van Ter Monde for owner Todd Minikus, Ltd., with a clear time of 39.906, and completing the fifth spot was Kimberly Prince aboard Marlou for owner Windmill Ranch in a clear time of 39.920.
Presenting awards were the preside