When you look back over the long history of the Grand Prix of Devon, you see a who's who of American equestrian sport. Olympic champions and Hall of Famers dot the rosters. Names like Rodney Jenkins, Melanie Smith-Taylor, Norman Dello Joio, Greg Best, Joe Fargis, Leslie Howard and so many more have their names engraved on the trophy. There's one rider, however, who stands tall above the rest: McLain Ward. While his father Barney won once during the early years (1983), Ward has captured this challenging class an incredible eight times.
No other rider even comes close. The year 1999 marked the first victory for two-time Olympic Gold medalist McLain Ward with Twist du Valon. Ward led the round of honor again in 2002 with Viktor, and in 2004, it was Ward taking home the lion share of the prize pool on Goldika for win number three.
Each of Ward's wins were unique, of course, but none more so that his victory on Capitano in 2006. As a last minute replacement rider for regular jockey Danielle Torano, Ward sat on Capitano for the first time ever in the Gold Ring just before his turn in the Dixon Oval.
His fifth win came the next year, as he rode his Olympic partner Sapphire to her first of two Dixon Oval triumphs and the pair stormed back in 2009 to win again.
Remarkable and memorable can only describe the 2012 Grand Prix of Devon. Ward learned that his wonderful partner Sapphire had to be retired following an injury suffered during the winter of the previous year, and he also suffered a devastating knee injury in January at the Winter Equestrian Festival, but he returned to Devon, an Olympic Selection event, with a place on the team for the London Olympics on the line.
For Sapphire, there would be one more unforgettable appearance in the Dixon Oval for her retirement. In a class Ward had to win, he did just that aboard Antares F to claim yet another victory.
In 2013 he won his eighth Devon Grand Prix on his fiery chestnut partner Rothchild.
What will 2015 bring? It's hard to say yet, but in honor of a great lady who passed away on June 22, 2014 at the age of 19, the Thursday night main event will become the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon for 2015.