Washington, D.C. - October 25, 2008 - Adding to their long list of accomplishment, two-time Olympic gold medalists McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, and Sapphire, owned by Blue Chip Bloodstock and Ward, won in the $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix, CSI-W at the 2008 Washington International Horse Show. Angel Karolyi (VEN) and Ron Krise's Sun God finished second as the only other double clear, while Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, FL, and Pavarotti were third.
Ward and seven other riders were clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off over the Richard Jeffrey-designed course. In the jump-off, Karolyi and Sun God were the first to attempt the shortened course. They went for the clear round with a little speed to put pressure on the other riders following. With the exception of a slip in one turn, Karolyi executed his plan beautifully. They finished with no faults in 39.47 seconds.
"Being first, I think I had to put in a solid, clean round and make the others a little bit worried to try and catch me and force them to do errors," Karolyi said. "In the jump-off, it was just as I planned it. The slip was the only thing that was unplanned!"
Ward said of Karolyi's ride, "Angel did absolutely the correct thing. His horse and my horse are not known as speed demons. There was not really an inside option in that course. It was not a great jump-off for either one of our horses. His decision to have a conservative clear to put pressure on was very smart."
Next in was Brianne Goutal on Onira, owned by Cloverleaf Farm. Goutal picked up the pace going into the one stride at fence 7 b-c and caught the top rail at the second element. Another rail at fence 9 gave them eight faults in 36.28 seconds. They ended up in sixth place at the end of the class.
Last year's President's Cup winners, Jill Henselwood of Canada, and Black Ice, had dashed hopes for repeating their win with they finished with three rails on the floor for 12 faults in 38.82 seconds.
Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Pamina L gave a huge bid in the jump-off when they sped around the turns, had a long effort at jump 9, and galloped down to the final oxer. Pamina just barely tipped the back rail on the final jump, and it fell to the dismay of the crowd for four faults. Engle finished in 34.94 seconds and took fourth place.
Next in, Todd Minikus and Pavarotti, were another duo that could offer a big chance for speed in the jump-off. They ended up with the fastest time of the night, 34.80 seconds, but it came at the expense of a rail at jump 7c. They took home third place.
The first jump fell to the disappointment of the next rider on course, Danielle Torano on Vancouver d'Auvray. They added another four faults at jump 10 and finished with a 40.43 second time. They finished in seventh place.
Ward and Sapphire were next to attempt the jump-off. They approached the first jump, a vertical straight on the rail, to an easy distance and Sapphire took a stutter at take-off. They cleared the jump and then made it down the forward four-stride line. Ward then opened up the mare's stride, and they cruised through the rest of the course. He galloped hard down the last line, and Sapphire sailed over the final oxer with room to spare. They finished clear in a winning time of 35.79 seconds.
Afterwards, Ward explained what happened at the first fence in the jump-off. "It was a very awkward line in four or five strides. Richard built a great course tonight, [but] it's so difficult to make everything fit and I don't think it quite lined up the way he was expecting it to."
"I cantered up to the first jump, and it was showing up slow. I thought if I had to do the four, I really had better get her over to the left. I opened my left rein a little bit and she's so quick and she thinks so fast, that she started to turn in front of the jump. She thought I wanted to turn. I gave her a boot in the side. As genuine as she is, she left the ground. I knew at that point she wasn't going to have a fence down. She's such a careful horse that it scared her just enough. It was just keep on kicking from there on in."
The final competitor in the ring was Kirsten Coe on Laura King's Starlight. Ward was assured the win when they had a rail at the first jump. They went on to finish in 39.07 seconds for fifth place.
Of his top finish, Karolyi said, "I was very excited of course. [My time] held up pretty good, and I was excited for my result. I tried to go for it, but I preferred the clear round first before the speed. These guys have a lot more experience than I do."
Karolyi has not been riding Sun God for very long, but feels that his horse has enough experience for the both of them. "He's been around for a long time. He was imported with Anne Kursinski. He's a great horse with a lot of experience. He's a teacher for me," he explained. "Whenever I get nervous, he just says, 'Hang on.' He's a good horse for me."
The 21-year-old Karolyi has been residing in the United States for a year. "I wanted to further my career as a professional rider," he said of his decision to move from Venezuela. "The sport is very developed in the country. Europe is much more complicated and far from home."
Karolyi trains with Andrea King of Aiken, SC. "If it wasn't for her believing in me, there is no chance," he said. "It's happened fast for me; I'm very lucky."
Ward and Sapphire's record speaks for itself and the 33-year-old rider has amassed many of his biggest achievements with the 13-year-old mare. "She's obviously incredible, and our sights are on the World Cup in Las Vegas and the World Championships after that. I've been so blessed; all of us have, to have this horse in our lives. She keeps doing and doing for us. There's nothing I can do to thank her enough. We have a lot of goals still that we want to accomplish; there's a lot left on the plate," he said. "I'm so lucky to have the team of people around her; Lee, Erica, Carrie, Jenny, Thomas Grossman, and my father. They make my life very easy."
While Ward has two Olympic gold medals and more than 100 grand prix wins, his victory tonight at Washington still holds significance. "It means a lot. This is one of the most coveted grand prix in America. I actually came here this year with a strong desire to win. I like to win every day, but sometimes a little more than others. I really came up with a plan for here."
Ward said that due to his Olympic training schedule, he had to pass on a lot of grand prix events in the United States earlier this year. "What Sapphire has done this year- she's been spectacular. I decided I was going to bring her here and to Syracuse because these were the two grand prix remaining in the season that really meant something to me to win. When you want something, bring your biggest gun."
Complete show results.
Final Results: $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix, CSI-W
1. Sapphire, Blue Chip Bloodstock/Ward, McLain Ward: 0/0/35.79
2. Sun God, Ron Krise, Angel Karolyi: 0/0/39.47
3. Pavarotti, Todd Minikus Ltd, Todd Minikus: 0/4/34.80
4. Hidden Creek's Pamina L, Hidden Creek Farm, Margie Engle: 0/4/34.94
5. Starlight, Laura King, Kirsten Coe: 0/4/39.07
6. Onira, Cloverleaf Farm, Brianne Goutal: 0/8/36.28
7. Vancouver d'Auvray, Sir Ruly Inc, Danielle Torano: 0/8/40.43
8. Black Ice, Juniper Farm and Stacy Ryan, Jill Henselwood: 0/12/38.82
9. Night Train, Double H Farm, Darragh Kerins: 4/64.56
10. Rulanda, Lulu Equestrian Ent, Carolyn Kelly: 4/64.65
11. Allison, Quiet Winter Farm and BJ Maghan, Callan Solem: 4/65.72
12. Up Chiqui, Boone, Dobbs, and Farrington, Kent Farrington: 4/66.18