Each week on #HallOfFameThursday, Horse Network recognizes members of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame with an inductee’s plaque, historical photos and, on the first Thursday of every month, an historic article about a Show Jumping Hall of Famer. This week’s featured inductee is McLain Ward’s famed mount Sapphire, Class of 2020.
Sapphire had one of the most successful careers in show jumping history.
The Belgian Warmblood mare carried McLain Ward to two Olympic team Gold Medals, a World Equestrian Games (WEG) team Silver and dozens of individual wins at many of the world’s biggest and most prestigious events.
Foaled in Belgium in 1995, Sapphire was recommended to Ward as a 7-year-old by Francois Mathy and was owned at different times by Ward in partnership with Harry Gill, Double H Farm, Blue Chip Bloodstock and Tom Grossman. “Sara” and Ward took to each other right away and had an immediate impact on the U.S. and international show jumping scene.
Sapphire and Ward quickly became mainstays on all major U.S. teams, winning Olympic team Gold Medals in 2004 at Athens and 2008 at Hong Kong where they also finished fifth individually. They added a team Silver Medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games at Aachen in 2006, where they placed seventh individually, and also helped the U.S. win the Samsung FEI Nations Cup Super League in 2005. They were also part of the U .S.’s WEG team at Lexington in 2010 when they again placed seventh individually.
Sapphire’s record in Grand Prix competition was equally impressive. Ward rode her in four FEI World Cup Finals, placing eighth in 2007 and second in 2009 when they jumped clear in all five rounds. Their long list of wins together includes the $1 million CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows (2009), the $1 Million Grand Prix at Saugerties (2010), the $100,000 President’s Cup at the Washington International (2008, 2010), the Grand Prix of La Baule and Grand Prix of Rome in 2010, the $200,000 American Invitational (2008), and both the $50,000 Grand Prix qualifier and $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix (2009).
Other big wins included the USEF National Show Jumping Championship (2006), the Devon Grand Prix (2007, 2009), and multiple major wins at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington including a record five wins in the Five-Star WEF Finale Grand Prix. Sapphire was named the American Grandprix Association (AGA) Horse of the Year in 2007 and the USEF Show Jumping Horse of the Year in 2009.
After her retirement in the spring of 2012, Sapphire lived a happy life at Ward’s Castle Hill Farm until her passing in 2014 at age 19.
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