Like gravity, sunrises and human err, some things in life you can count on.
McLain Ward (USA) winning a WEF Challenge Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL is one of them.
Show jumping’s reigning king of consistency topped a field of 68 with his FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 team gold medal-winning mount, Clinta, to claim Round 8 of the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup CSIO 4* on Thursday.
It’s Ward’s first WEF Challenge Cup win of the year. (In 2018, he had an astounding 25% win ratio in the weekly Grand Prix qualifier, claiming three of the 12 classes.) And the 28th of his career. (Probably.)
The world #2’s latest WEF Challenge Cup win was a definitive one at that.
In the one round speed class, he and the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare shaved two seconds off the 74.63 second time to beat set by Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Silver Shine, crossing the timers in 72.52 seconds.
“It was a good track for me because you could stay smooth. There were rollbacks, but there weren’t extreme slices. There were no all or nothing turns, which I prefer. I think it actually suits the better riders, because they can consistently deliver a smooth round. Sometimes we have all or nothing rollbacks or inside cuts, it’s a little bit up to the gods. So, I liked the course; I thought it was good class,” opined Ward, who may or may not have been referencing the previous week’s Grand Prix.
“Even though it was a fast-enough round to win, I didn’t feel like I actually was extreme anywhere,” he continued.
“I picked up a good gallop, and things were showing up out of stride. The thing about [Clinta] is, she’s so careful, you don’t have to really setup the verticals, which saves you two-tenths [of a second] at every vertical. By the end of the course that’s a lot.”
The victory is Clinta’s first FEI performance since competing in Europe mid-December where she and Ward finished third in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final. It’s also the next step in building her toward the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April.
“We gave her almost five weeks of no work, no riding,” explained Ward.
“We’ve just been slowly legging her back up. I showed her a few weeks ago in a couple of 1.40m [classes]. She’s a little unfit, but she feels good. She needs to compete a little bit. She’s such a quality horse; she needs to kind of get in the ring a little. I don’t think her fitness level is quite where I want it by the World Cup time, but there’s still six or seven weeks; we try to build up to peak at the right moment.”
Fuchs took the second-place honor. Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) and Chacna finished in third with a time of 75.33 seconds.