Remember when we reported on the heated battle between McLain Ward (USA) and Eric Lamaze (CAN) for the title of most WEF Challenge Cup victories?
Turns out, all those press releases were wrong.
We’re not embarrassed in the slightest.
*Sinks slowly into the floor*
According to the latest—and we’re told “official”—recount, the Canadian and US Olympic gold medalists are tied, as of Thursday, on 27 wins apiece in the history of the Series. Previous reports put Lamaze at 25 wins as of 2018 season and Ward at 27 before this week’s victory. A still earlier release put Lamaze at 25 wins last year. (He won two WEF Challenge Cups in 2018.)
Confused? So are we all!
The official report *fingers crossed* is that Ward matched Lamaze’s record when he captured the CSI 5* $132,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Florida yesterday.
We know, without a doubt, that it’s the 2017 FEI World Cup Champion’s third WEF Challenge Cup win of the 2018 season and second time doing so with Hija van Strokapelleken. Ward also won the class during Week 5 with HH Azur, making a clean sweep of the CSI 5* weeks.
Also, confirmed: that’s amazing.
Alan Wade of Ireland, course designer of the 2018 World Equestrian Games, set this week’s track in Wellington. Of the 50 horse-and-rider combinations to contest the course, 13 advanced to the jump off.
“It was by far the strongest track we’ve had in the WEF [Challenge Cup] series,” said Ward. “It was a big track; I was actually very surprised at how many clear rounds there were.”
Second last to go, Ward planned to capitalize on his mount’s big stride and do seven strides down the last line. Only, like our WEF Challenge Cup coverage this season, it didn’t go as intended. The world #3 ended up making a last-minute adjustment to fit eight strides in before the final fence.
Despite the “bobble,” as they say in dressage, he and the 11-year-old BWP mare were still able to record the fastest time, posting a clear round in 39.37 seconds.
“She’s more adjustable than I thought!” laughed Ward. “The mare jumped beautifully in the first round. Both Devin [Ryan’s horse] and mine have big strides, so I was interested watching him. We both got the seven [strides] from one to two. I thought there was a seven to the last [jump]. I got a great jump into the line, the one I wanted, and at about stride five and three-quarters [strides], I went, ‘I’m going to crash.’ I put the handbrake on and most horses should have cantered right through the fence. She made a hell of a move to jump it. She’s always trying for you.”
Owned by Jennifer Gates’s Evergate Stables LLC, Hijavan Strokapelleken is currently campaigning under Ward to be sold. Since January, they’ve won four of the nine FEI classes they’ve contested and left all the fences up in six. (At least, that’s what their FEI record reveals.)
“I’m really honored to ride her; I love riding the horse,” said Ward.
“She’s been winning as much as any horse in the world over the last couple of months. There’s always a very good chance she gets sold, which is the goal, but until then I’m really loving every bit of her and she’s performing very beautifully.”
Second place went to Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z, who stopped the clock in 40.48 seconds. Israel’s Danielle Goldstein and Lizziemary were third in 40.68 seconds.
Excuse us now while we
weep try to correct two years of WEF Challenge Cup coverage.