Wellington, FL - February 10, 2011 - The fifth round of the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series was held on Thursday afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center with a victory for McLain Ward (USA) and Grant Road Partners' Antares F. The pair was the fastest of three clear jump-off rounds in the class to win over 64 starters.
Today's $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup grand prix was held over a course designed by Alan Wade of Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Nine out of the original 64 entries jumped clear over the first round course to jump off, and only three jumped clear to finish at the top.
McLain Ward and Antares F had the fastest clear round in 40.85 seconds to earn first place. Pablo Barrios (VEN) and G&C Quick Star 11 finished in second place with their time of 41.94 seconds, and Jennifer Crooks (IRL) rode S.F. Uryadi, owned by Olivia Cox-Fill and Stella Farm, into third place with a clear round in 51.34 seconds. The remaining six horses in the jump-off all had four faults, with the fastest of those four-fault rounds placing Nick Skelton (GBR) and Carlo 273, owned by Beverly Widdowson, into fourth place.
The winning combination of McLain Ward and Antares F is a fairly new partnership within the last six months, and Ward noted that he and the eleven-year-old Baden-Württemberger gelding (by Araconit x Cento) are gradually getting to know each other. "We are still learning different things and I do not think we have it exactly right yet, but we are close and we keep winning pretty decent classes," Ward stated. "That class today was as hard to win as any grand prix anywhere in the world. We had almost 70 of the best and it was difficult."
"I think Alan Wade is a great course builder," Ward continued. "I love his courses; I think they make sense from a rider's point of view. They are not gimmicky or false, what you see is what you get, but at the same time that was a very challenging course."
Jumping in the large, open space in the International Arena, Antares F covered the ground with ease and then left out a stride in the last line to take the lead. Ward spoke further about the horse, stating, "He has an incredibly big stride, but he is also very fast across the ground. He is an aggressive horse, so you don't really have to make him go fast. You just have to soften the reins and he moves across the ground, so it makes him quite quick, especially in big spaces."
One of the world's best riders, Ward has many exceptional horses in his barn, and spoke about the difference between his three tops mounts, Antares F, Rothchild, and Sapphire. "They are really all different. This horse, stride-wise, is similar to Sapphire but he has tons more blood. He is an incredible jumper and he is a little bit of a handful, but in a good way. Rothchild is what he is; he is quirky and a little bit of a character, but he is in good form and he kind of quietly keeps jumping clear round after clear round," Ward observed. "One thing about Sapphire is that you always know what you are going to get. The other two aren't quite to the consistency level that she is at yet, but I hope that eventually they will be."
Today's WEF Challenge Cup was a qualifier for Saturday night's $150,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix. A total of 45 riders may compete, including the top ten North American riders on the FEI Rankings list as of October, eight of which are currently here in Wellington. The remaining 37 positions will be filled by the top placed riders in today's class. Ward and Antares F will compete again on Saturday night following today's victory.
In addition to earning the top prize today, Ward was also presented with a $6,000 bonus for wearing his SSG 'Digital' Riding Gloves. No bonus was awarded in last week's class, so Ward earned double the money.
The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's fifth week of competition continues through Sunday, February 13. Week five, sponsored by Spy Coast Farm, will feature the $150,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Spy Coast Farm, on Saturday at 7 p.m., the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix on Sunday morning, and the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday afternoon. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
Friday's competition in the International Arena will feature the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge.
Final Results: $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 5
- 1 ANTARES F: 2000 BAD-W gelding by Araconit x Cento MCLAIN WARD (USA), Grand Road Partners: 0/0/40.85
- 2 G&C QUICK STAR 11: 2000 KWPN mare by Quick Star x Grannus PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), G&C Farm: 0/0/41.94
- 3 S.F. URYADI: 2001 KWPN mare by Guidam x Amaretto I JENNIFER CROOKS (IRL), Olivia Cox-Fill & Stella Farm: 0/0/51.34
- 4 CARLO 273: 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly Widdowson: 0/4/41.45
- 5 ONIRA: 1996 KWPN gelding by Nimmerdor x Ramiro BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/4/42.34
- 6 ROLETTE: 1998 KWPN mare by Lester x Voltaire SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/4/43.11
- 7 ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE: 2000 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Karandasj CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/4/43.64
- 8 APACHE: 1999 Selle Francais/Thoroughbred gelding by Mescalaro x Unknown ASHLEE BOND (USA) Little Valley Farm: 0/4/43.75
- 9 TRIPPLE-X III: 2002 Holsteiner stallion by Unknown x Unknown BEN MAHER (GBR), Ben Maher: 0/4/45.30
- 10 LAPACCO: 1999 Holsteiner gelding by Lavaletto x Grundyman SCHUYLER RILEY (USA), South Beach Stables: 1/90.230
- 11 CADETT 7: 1997 Holsteiner gelding by Cordelabryere x Capitol I ASHLEE BOND (USA), Little Valley Farm: 4/82.59
- 12 UNBELIEVABLE 5: 2001 KWPN gelding by Manhattan x Democraat JESSICA SUIDA (USA), Windward Farm & Jessica Suida: 4/82.66
Photo Credit: McLain Ward and Antares F won the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. McLain Ward and Antares F with Ed James of SSG Gloves and ringmaster Cliff Haines Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.