Friday’s $35,000 Bainbridge 1.45m Classic CSI5* marked the second major win in as many days for U.S. Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward, who captured the Friday victory at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) aboard Bellefleur PS Z. WEF continues through April 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, and offers more than $9 million in prize money.
The fifth week of WEF, sponsored by Fidelity Investments®, features CSI 5* competition from February 7-11 and the $384,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 10.
The $35,000 Bainbridge 1.45m Classic had 54 entries contesting the speed track set by course designer Kelvin Bywater of Great Britain. Seventeen of those entries completed the course without fault, but none were faster than Ward, who was fresh off a win in Thursday’s $132,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 aboard his 2017 FEI World Cup Final champion mount HH Azur. This time, Ward tripped the timers in 55.88 seconds riding Bellefleur PS Z, a nine-year-old Zangersheide mare owned by Ward’s godmother, Susan Heller, and Ward’s daughter, Lilly.
“My godmother bought half of her with the stipulation that my half was owned by Lilly Ward because she thought that maybe that would prevent me from selling – which, who knows,” Ward explained. “I absolutely love the mare. She loves her job. She’s a fighter, a trier, just a wonderful horse to be able to compete.”
Second place with a time of 57.88 seconds went to Ireland’s Darragh Kenny riding USA Normande, owned by Paillot Equestrian. Rounding out the top three were Karen Polle (JPN) and Little Lord with a time of 58.38 seconds.
“She’s a very fast horse naturally,” Ward said of Bellefleur and his winning time, two seconds faster than Kenny’s second place finish. “I actually didn’t do all of the leave outs. Her stride isn’t massive, but she’s just quick across the floor. She’s super careful, so you don’t really have to set her up anywhere.
“You have a different flavor every week here and this was an English course builder and traditionally with English course designers, you have a lot of roll backs; they rode the horse on a short stride,” Ward continued. “You see that in the course, which is interesting and a different challenge.”
In the $35,000 Equiline 1.45m Jumper Classic CSI 2*, Andrew Kocher (USA) was victorious riding Kahlua, owned by Top Line Sporthorse International LLC. They were fastest in an 18-horse jump-off from an original line-up of 83 entries with a time of 30.27 seconds.