U.S. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward opened week three at the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with a win riding Catoki in the $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI3* at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, on Wednesday, January 22.
With a second and a half to spare, Ward and the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Catoki x Cartello B) bested a field of 48 over Kelvin Bywater’s (GBR) two-phase course. Their time was enough to win over runner-up Darragh Kenny (IRL) aboard Billy Dorito, owned by Vlock Show Stables LLC, who posted a time of 31.22 seconds.
Ward picked up Wednesday’s top placing while introducing Catoki, a new mount in his string, to FEI competition in North America. The mount was previously campaigned in Poland before carrying U.S. rider Brian Feigus to top national-level placings over the past two years.
“I have known the horse and have seen it a few times and always liked it; Seth Vallhonrat brought it to my attention again, and we ended up purchasing,” said Ward, who bought Catoki in November with Marilla van Beuren and Bob Russell. “We have high hopes for him!”
Standing at only 15.1 hands high, according to Ward, Catoki is small but mighty. “He’s barely a horse. He’s almost a pony, but fast as lightning and very careful. I think he can be like another [HH] Carlos.”
With high praise for Catoki, Ward’s plan is to get to know the gelding this season, saying, “We will keep trying to figure him out in Florid and step him up to a few bigger classes. We will see where we get.”
Of riding a smaller mount, Ward joked, “Mentally, when I get on him, I have to believe he can actually jump the fence. But honestly, he’s a bold horse that doesn’t have a practically short stride. I just have to keep him together, and he’s always right there.”
Rounding out the podium finishes, Catherine Tyree (USA) finished third riding BEC Lorenzo in 31.81 seconds for owner Mary Tyree. Jessica Springsteen took fourth on Stone Hill Farm’s Tiger Lily in 32.54 seconds, while Great Britain’s Jessica Mendoza capped the top five riding Dublin, owned by Windsor Farms.
Also winning in the International Arena at WEF on Wednesday, Jessica Mendoza (GBR) topped the $6,000 Bainbridge 1.40m CSI3* riding Stella Levista, owned by Caroline Mawhinney, and Flore Giraud (FRA) claimed the $6,000 Bainbridge 1.40m riding Voyou du Boboisfor owner Delphine Giraud, to close out the day.