Last Week's FTI Winter Equestrian Festival Produces Big Wins by McLain Ward, Todd Minikus, and Team Canada
RELEASE: March 5, 2009
McLain Ward and Sapphire Win Big
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Roxane Theidel
McLain Ward and his two-time Olympic Gold medal partner Sapphire claimed victory in the $150,000 CN CSIO Grand Prix at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Sunday. The field of 47 starters in one of the highlight events of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival included eight Olympic Gold medal winners and riders from 13 nations.
Ward, of Brewster, NY, and the 14-year-old mare owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock, were one of two to go double clear. The pair posted a time of 46.37 seconds.
Christine McCrea of Suffield, CT, and Promise Land, owned by Candy Tribble and the Windsor Show Stables, the only other double clean, posted a time of 47.05 seconds.
Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL, and Naomi 152, owned by the Quail Run Partnerships, had the fastest time of 46.11 seconds, but incurred four faults in the jump-off.
Six horse-and-rider combinations made it through the first round of the course designed by Frank Rothenberger of Germany.
Double-digit faults were common in the first round. Two riders retired during their rounds and one rider was eliminated after falling off.
The triple at fence 5 proved to be a challenge for many.
"It was a popular triple with this course designer in Europe so I got to see it a few times before today," McClain noted. But he thought the design overall was "right on the money."
Ward said a win is "never a gimme" but Sapphire "was in good form today. I felt in the jump-off she was coming right into form. She's a good horse and doesn't let me down unless I let her down."
Ward thought he had left the door open for someone to beat him. But second place finisher McCrea said of her jump-off round, "I tried to turn as sharp as I could, I ran where I could, maybe on a luckier day I could beat McLain."
Hunter Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of CN and former owner of Sapphire, was rooting for the mare. "I thought the course could be tough for her. I thought she could have a little trouble today," Hunter said of the opening round. "But the jump off was made for her. I was yelling for McLain at the end, people were telling me to quite down."
Although winds were high at times, the weather didn't pose a problem for Promised Land. "The weather helped my horse," she said. "When it's calm he doesn't rise to the occasion. When there's a crowd or weather he's better. He felt on in the warm-up and it all worked out well today."
Both riders have their sights set on the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas in mid-April. For Ward, "I would like to win it. It has been my single vision since the Olympics." Todd Minikus Wins Again
Wellington's own Todd Minikus aboard Presidente captured another grand prix win Thursday in Round VIII of the $30,000 Braman Motorcars WEF Challenge Cup Series at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Minikus and Presidente, owned by the Sleepy P Ranch, LLC, was the fastest in a 19-horse jump-off in the series that is part of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.
Forty-eight starters challenged the course designed by Frank Rothenberger of Germany.
Kate Levy of North Salem, NY, aboard her own Vent du Nord was the first to go in the jump-off, posting a clean time of 37.35 seconds that held up to the second to last ride, that of Minikus and Presidente in the incredibly fast 36.15 seconds.
"I watched Kate and assumed it would be a fast, fast, faster situation," Minikus said of the jump-off. "But the oxer on the end and the vertical across the center played a big part—they were hard jumps to jump. Kate set a hot enough pace and everyone had to push.
"Kate did eight strides from one to two, I did seven. I was pretty fast down to the oxer, but got a little chicken at the vertical across the middle. So from one to two was where I really made it up."
Although she was the runner-up, L