In a battle of the giants, the USA’s McLain Ward came out on top in Saturday night’s highlight 5* $380,000 Suncast grand prix with the 11-year-old Thunder van de Zuuthoeve daughter HH Azur. Twelve contended the jump-off with McLain claiming a 0.37 sec advantage over Canada’s Eric Lamaze on the consistent Fine Lady 5.
“I’m thrilled with the mare,” said McLain of his 2016 Olympic silver medalist mount. “This is her first big start of the year. We gave her a little rest with the World Cup Finals in Omaha in mind. We have planned only two major weeks for her here.
“For myself, I have to say I was probably a bit motivated tonight. I’ve been on a bit of a four-fault run and getting a little frustrated. Eric has been winning everything. Sometimes Eric says I have a look; I think I had it tonight. I wanted it a little bit.”
Commenting on the short course, McLain noted, “I thought it was quite a well-balanced jump-off. Eric and I have very different horses, and there were pros to the jump-off for both horses. There were long gallops at the beginning and the end, which were not that hard with my mare’s stride, bravery and scope. For me, those hairpin rollback turns in the middle were much more of a concern, because with a big horse like mine I knew I was going to lose momentum. It was a fraction between us. I had a little bit of a lucky rub on the second to last fence, but I have been having some unlucky ones lately, so I’ll take it.”
Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya took third on Arrayan with Ireland’s Cian O’Connor fourth on the scopey Good Luck. Britain’s Emily Moffitt also featured, jumping the steadiest of the double clears in one of her first forays in 5* competition to take seventh on the Dulf van den Bisschop 10-year-old Hilfiger van de Olmenhoeve. Sam Hutton was also in the mix, posting clear and four on the stallion Happydam for 12th spot, two places behind Laura Kraut and Zeremonie.
British-based American Laura Kraut hit form at WEF on week seven in Wellington, winning the 5* 1.45m on the Solitair 13-year-old Nouvelle and taking third aboard the Holsteiner 10-year-old Confu. Fifty-seven contended this speed class with Laura winning by 0.74 and sandwiching Ireland’s Richie Maloney into second on Ypaja Yando. Emily Moffitt jumped a steadier clear for eighth on Harriri, a Nabab de Reve/Darco 10-year-old mare.
Sam Hutton guided Gablitz to a win in the six-year-old, finishing in front by 0.82 sec.
In the 2* $50,000 grand prix, eight faults in the jump-off dropped Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH down to 11th. Peter Leone and Wayfarer took the win.
Ben Maher dropped out of contention in the 5* Suncast 1.50m classic on the nine-year-old It’s Real Love VD Smis Z for 17th place. Chile’s Samuel Parot claimed victory on Quick du Pottier.
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