McLain Ward on top in Upperville's Grand Prix

McLain Ward on top in Upperville's Grand Prix
As America’s oldest running horse show, the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (UCHS) has consistently hosted the world’s top athletes for over 165 years. This year’s competition, presented by St. Bride’s Farm, was no exception as the best of the best gathered to compete in the $208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, on Sunday afternoon. In front of a packed crowd, the United States’ own McLain Ward scored his fourth grand prix at the historic event when he bested a 13-horse jump-off with a double-clear effort aboard Beechwood Stables’ Contagious.

hirty-four international athletes challenged Ireland’s Alan Wade’s first round track in the B&D Builders Jumper Ring I, and the field was eventually narrowed down to 13 combinations returning for the jump-off by clearing the course. Schuyler Riley (USA) and Katherine Gallagher’s Robin De Ponthual were the first pair to cross the finish line in under 40 seconds, breaking the beam at 39.05 seconds with all of the rails intact.

Three rounds later though, Olympic and World Equestrian Games gold medalist Ward entered the arena. He was efficient but conservative through the first half of the shortened track, as many of the previous athletes had issues at the double combination, but then he picked up the pace as he made his way home with Contagious. They galloped through the timers in a blazing 37.68 seconds to take over the top spot on the leaderboard.

Great Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire gave the win a shot with Gochman Sport Horse’s Roulette BH, galloping down the final line and leaving a stride out to the last oxer. All the poles were in place, but they were not quite fast enough, finishing in 38.06 seconds to take over second place, while Riley finished third and Ward earned his fourth title in the main event at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show.

Ward took over the ride of the 10-year-old gelding from Reed Kessler in August 2018, and the pair have quickly developed a strong rapport, helping the NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team win the 2019 $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO4* at the Winter Equestrian Festival in March. Ward described Contagious as a sensitive mount, but noted that is what makes him so careful. They are now aiming for the Pan American Games later this year in Lima, Peru.