Tradition Continues at Devon

Friday, May 31, 2013


Ward on Rothchild
Ward on Rothchild
The 2013 Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has featured a little of everything.  A little rain, plenty of sunshine, record-breaking 90 degree temperatures, light snow, and even jumper rider Mclain Ward winning a Saddlebred class.  But nothing could have been more business as usual as the hours ticked down to the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon.  The boxes began filling with spectators armed with picnic baskets and wine and cheese plates from the Garden Café.  The rows of benches around the ring were filled with those lucky enough to secure a special yellow wristband for a front row seat.  In the gold ring, the schooling was underway.  Olympians like Beezie Madden and Kevin Babbington shared the ring with aspiring junior riders like Michael Hughes and riders from Australia, Columbia, and Venezuela.

Variety gave way to tradition.  The night ended as it has seven times before, with Ward leading the victory gallop.  His path to the top of the class of 28 wasn't easy-- course designer Olaf Peterson Jr. planned a difficult course. The bogey fence was the Abba Equine Health Oxer which riders approached both on a bending track as well as a more angled approach.  Again and again, horses misjudged the width and the back rail was tipped by a hind hoof and fell. Even the time allowed proved to be a challenge.  On Cortes C, Madden missed the time allotted by one tenth of a second and the crowd sighed in disappointment. By the time the first round was through, there were five to jump off-Devin Ryan on No Worries, Callan Solem on VDL Torlando, Andrew Welles on Boo Van Het Kastenjehof, Ward on Rothchild, and Madden on Vanilla.

Ryan set a blazing track in the jump off, showing the remaining riders how a clear path could be accomplished.  His tight rollback to the Wells Fargo jump showed he was in it to win.  He stopped the clock at 36.124.  Next to go was local rider Solem.  Her handsome gray stallion beat Ryan's time but had one rail down.  Welles entered the ring next and walked out as the new leader with a time of 38.815.  Next was Ward.  He took all the fast options including a hairpin turn to the triple combination and an even tighter rollback to the Wells Fargo jump.  He stopped the clock on 33.564 and it was all Madden's to win or lose. She was on track pace-wise but an early rail made it clear that McLain had won.  Madden finished on eight faults.
And with that, the victory lap commenced.  Ward was in first place followed by Welles in second and Ryan in third.  As the crowd cheered, spectators began wandering back through the Country Fair, stopping for one last souvenir to remember a terrific night.  This year may have had a little of everything, but some traditions are here to stay.  With this notch in their belt, Ward and Rothchild have become the new Devon duo to beat.