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McLain Ward and Kasper van het Hellehof Capture FEI Longines Grand Prix of The United States CSIO5*
Saturday, May 13, 2023
Posted by USEF Communications
McLain Ward and Kasper van het Hellehof bested the challenging track set by Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) in the FEI Longines Grand Prix of The United States CSIO5* to put the U.S. at the top of the podium in the highlight Grand Prix class of the FEI Jumping Nations Cup CSIO5* week at Rancho Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The pair finished with a time of 37.42 seconds, edging Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia (MEX) and H-Lucky Retto in the two-horse jump-off.
Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Kasper van het Hellehof, a 2010 Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by The Kasper Group LLC, went towards the end of the order in the first round, which proved to be a challenging task for the 21 combinations contesting the class. The pair finished the first round in 82.12 seconds, with their win marking their first CSI5* Grand Prix victory together in their three-year partnership.
Photo - McLain Ward and Kasper van het Hellehof (©Matt Turer/US Equestrian)
“It’s a huge win. Kasper performed beautifully. He’s been a great campaigner for us. His ownership team is a group of people who are really behind the United States and international competition, and it really makes it that much more special to win our home Nations Cup Grand Prix,” said Ward.
Of Kasper, the big bay stallion who has been a consistent force in his string for the past several years, Ward noted that earning Kasper’s first career FEI win with Ward, and on home soil, is something he hoped the pair would be able to achieve in front of the crowd in San Juan Capistrano this week.
“We’ve really grown in our relationship together and we had the opportunity to buy him with a group of supporters a few years ago and add him to our team. He’s been a wonderful addition,” he said.
Building Challenging Tracks
Of the course, Ward noted that Palacio is known for building challenging tracks that test combinations in multiple ways, and today’s course was an early taste of what he expects to be built for Sunday’s Nation’s Cup class.
“Leopoldo is one of the most seasoned and one of the great course builders in the world over the past two decades. He has a super feeling,” explained Ward. “He didn’t have a huge class today and we do have the Nations Cup coming on Sunday, but there were some strong combinations and he had to build at a 5* level.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s critical team competition, Ward noted that the team’s focus is solely on their performance in the Longines FEI Nations Cup USA class and earning qualification for the 2023 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona this fall.
A Must Do
“The most important part of this week for us is the Nations Cup. Our first opportunity this year to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is in Barcelona. Our backs are against the wall, and this is a must do and I think all the best riders, supporters, and horses for this country are trying to come together and get this job done.”
Lillie Keenan (New York, N.Y.) and Agana van het Gerendal Z narrowly missed the jump-off, barely touching the tape at the open water to finish fifth following their impressive win yesterday. Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) and Calgary Tame completed with a fast eight faults to earn ninth overall.
Four team combinations will return tomorrow for the FEI Longines Speed Class CSIO5* presented by Sun Coast Plaza beginning at 10:45 a.m. PST.
Watch the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of USA at San Juan Capistrano CSIO5* live on FEI.TV.