The 1.60m CSIO5* Grand Prix in San Juan Capistrano turned out in a clash of titans, as only two combinations managed to qualify for the Jump-Off. With not even one second difference it was USA's own, McLain Ward, conquering the class aboard the 13-year-old BWP-sire, Kasper van het Hellehof.
The course was challenging with some technical lines. Eventually only two combination managed to qualify for the Jump-Off. McLain Ward eventually jumped to victory aboard Jur Vrieling (NED) his former horse, Kasper van het Hellehof (Emerald van 't Ruytershof).
On stage, Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia (MEX) followed with the 11-year-old KWPN-mare, H-Lucky Retto (Bernini). Aboard the mare - that was produced by Nathalie van der Mei, the pair was the only other to set a clear round.
With one jumping fault in the first round, Brazil's Cassio Rivetti completed the stage. The Brazilian jumping rider followed aboard his 10-year-old Nadale van Dorperheide (Zilverstar T). Together with Ludo Philippaerts' home bred gelding, Swail referred Conor Swail (IRL) to the fourth spot with his trusted Count Me In (Count Grannus). The Irish jumping rider - who earlier won the CSI2* opening class - was followed by the CSIO5* opening class winers, Lillie Keenan (USA) and her 12-year-old Agana van het Gerendal Z (Aganix du Seigneur).
“The most important part of this week for us is the Nations Cup; our first opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games is the Nations Cup Final which will be in September in Barcelona,” explained Ward. “We have to qualify out of our league, so these three Nations Cup – the first in Mexico, which we were successful at and won; here in San Juan Capistrano and then on to Langley. Our backs are against the wall. This is a must-do. I think all of the best riders and supporters of horses in our country are trying to come together and get this job done.”
The U.S. is not alone in that mission, with the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA attracting many of the world’s best riders to San Juan Capistrano, CA, providing an opportunity to compete on the West Coast that Ward appreciates.
“I love it here; I always enjoy coming to compete on the West Coast,” concluded Ward. “I think it’s a great part of the world for our sport. I have family from the West Coast, so it always feels a little bit comfortable for me. It feels like coming home. You can’t have an anymore beautiful venue than here and San Juan Capistrano and the beaches.”
Ph. © McCool Photography