Devon, Pa.- Some might call it luck, some might call it hard work, most would call it both. Whatever it is, McLain Ward has it.
Notching his eighth international victory in a row, Ward rose to the top of the field once again, claiming the $40,000 Devon International Speed Stake CSI4* sponsored by Green Drop. Piloting Tina La Boheme to the fastest clear round, Ward once again led the lap of honor in the Dixon Oval at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair.
"The speed here at Devon has probably gotten more difficult," said Ward after his win. "Being FEI, you need a little more of a jumper. I thought it was a very good course. Took a little jumping and enough speed. It wasn't like you could go belly to the ground. You needed to pick a few places to take a moment."
An international field of entries took their turn over Kelvin Bywater's track to kick off the evening of competition at the Devon Horse Show, but with a quick pace as the main goal, only 10 riders left all the rails intact in their effort to secure a top ribbon.
As the fourth athlete to tackle the course, Amanda Derbyshire of Great Britain set the pace to beat at 60.29 seconds with a clear round aboard Goldbreaker. With a quick time that left many trying to catch her unsuccessfully, she took home the second place prize.
When discussing how she might have won, Derbyshire admitted, "I chipped really bad at the fifth jump. I did not see that distance. Goldbreaker jumps back feet first, but he's brave and he's a good boy. It felt like a win anyway if McLain won! I knew he was going to beat me. I was on the fence waiting for him to beat me."
Ireland's Kevin Babington was one of the select few to come close to the 60-second mark, stopping the clock at 60.30 seconds with his veteran partner Mark Q for third place. Sydney Shulman riding Toscane De L'Isle and Laura Chapot on Quointreau Un Prince finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with clear times of 61.31 seconds and 61.92 seconds.
The last in the class would prove to be the best of day. Ward and Tina La Boheme executed a flawless performance as they took the inside options to beat Derbyshire by almost two seconds as they dashed across the finish line in 58.49 seconds for his second victory at the Devon Horse Show.
"I did the plan," explained Ward after seeing the others show over the course. "I didn't do anything really different than the plan. Everything showed up nice. She's a careful mare, so it worked out."
With victories at Old Salem, Rome and Devon, Ward has racked up an impressive number of wins in the last three weeks. "I always imagine that, but it doesn't always go that way," laughed Ward.
"I never try to limit what is possible. Every competition I go in I have a plan and I do the best I can to execute that plan. Sometimes it's not the win, you know, sometimes it's to train a horse or learn something or to gain some experience, but if it's to ride a certain round, you try to execute it and sometimes you get in a nice streak. Like I said last night, I have a lot of really nice horses. The horses make you look good."
Ward will return to the ring Thursday evening for the $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*. This time he will be aboard his veteran mount Rothchild, the reigning individual Pan American gold medalist.
"I'm going to go with my best chance," explained Ward. "Tina is 9, so she's not experienced. She's a green horse, and she's never jumped higher than 1.50m. I think this being a 4* grand prix, it's a real enough test. Tina will have a nice, easy couple of days, and I'll show her Saturday night."
The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the longest running and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the United States. With the grandeur of Philadelphia's prestigious Main Line setting the stage, the event features a world-class field that annually ranks among the most prominent internationally. The event also includes the Country Fair that offers world-class shopping, rides and games for kids, multiple dining options and special entertainment events.
For more information, please visit www.DevonHorseShow.net.