PHELPS MEDIA PRESS RELEASE:
McLain Takes Third Victory at 2013 $200,000 American Invitational Aboard Rothchild
Written by:Kendall Bierer
Client: Stadium Jumping, Inc. http://www.stadiumjumping.com/sj/index.cfm
Release Date: 2013-04-06
Tampa, FL – April 6, 2013 – For over four decades Raymond James Stadium has been home to the jewel of show jumping, the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, presented by G&C Farm. The class has made history as a tradition and landmark of the showjumping world, and tonight was no exception. It was a cliff-hanging night as spectators looked on to the stadium turf, but it was with speed and accuracy that McLain Ward was able to emerge victorious as one of the few riders in history to ever capture three American Invitational victories.
Ward piloted Rothchild to a double-clear effort during a two-horse jump-off. They sped through the finish line in 42.10 seconds after completing a clear short course, while Reed Kessler and Mika captured the second place prize. Sharn Wordley and Derly Chin de Muze were the third place finishers for the evening, taking the honors with only one time fault added to their otherwise fautless first round effort.
2008 Olympic course designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL, designed tonight’s arduous track. The 14 numbered obstacles featured an oxer-vertical double combination, a scopey vertical-oxer-vertical combination, a unique, suspended American Invitational wall, an orange skinny, a liverpool and a daunting brownstone final oxer. The most difficult obstacle proved to be the triple combination’s liverpool, resulting in 13 rails on the ground.
“Obviously Steve and the entire Stadium Jumping team have so many things that they do so well. The fences here for 30 years have been on the cutting edge and just spectacular. That’s a very easy thing over time to let up on, and they never have,” tonight’s winner Ward described. “They had four or five new fences in the course tonight, and that really is a testament to the effort and what this is – this class.”
Ward continued, “I thought this course was good. I didn’t think it was unfair. Steve had some very young and green riders in the class, as well as Olympic horses and Olympic riders, so he had to find the balance. I thought it was a good balanced test. The triple was a good test in the middle. I think two or three, but under 5 is always a good number in the jump-off for this competition.”
Lauren Hough and Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo, were one of the horse and rider combinations to fall victim to the problematic triple combination. Hough completed the course in the fast four-fault time of 85.48 seconds. She held strong as the fastest four-fault pair, but Kirsten Coe and Baronez, owned by Ilan Ferder, Tal Milstein & Lovsta AB, blazed around the field, overtaking Hough’s time as she finished with a time of 85.24 seconds. Both horse and rider combinations found fault at the second part of the triple combination, the oxer-liverpool. Coe eventually took the fourth place honors, while Hough finished in fifth. Other four-fault riders included Laura Kraut and Cedric, Todd Minikus and Uraguay, Darragh Kerins and E Muze YEK, and Jordan Coyne and Lazaro.
Eighteen-year-old Olympian Reed Kessler and her own Mika were the fourth on the course, and the first to post a clear effort as she showed their mastership of the opening track. The crowd erupted in applause as she made it through the triple combination, and easily soared over the final daunting brownstone oxer.
“Mika is great. He’s kind of been a little bit in Cylana’s shadow—he just hasn’t had his big Olympic moment yet, but he shined tonight,” Kessler explained. “They’re totally different. She’s like the coolest customer ever, and he’s a little more of a like my special little boy that I’ve had for four years. We have a really close partnership. He started out when I first got him pretty nervous so we’re really close like that. The Olympic trials were an amazing thing for him. He’s become really confident and can walk into a huge atmosphere like the Invitational and lay down a clear round. He’s fantastic. He’s just as much quality as Cylana.”
Ten rounds later, McLain Ward guaranteed a jump-off for the 41st edition of the American Invitational. Ward guided Rothchild, owned by Sagamore Farm, through the finish in 84.91 seconds, without incurring any jumping faults. With a jump-off eminent, the stakes were high as riders continued to navigate the first round course within the tight time allowed of 89 seconds. Sharn Wordley of New Zealand almost added his name to the list for the jump-off tonight; however, a single time fault on top of his clear jumping effort sealed his fate in the third position.
“Derly is a relatively new horse for me to ride, and I was just sort of taking it slowly during the winter, trying to create a partnership. Right from the beginning I’d planned to do one big class in Wellington and the Invitational. So I’ve just been slowly building her up for this class really,” Wordley explained. “I knew I was probably going to be pretty close on the time. After fence four, my horse drifted quite hard to the right, away from the stands, and I rubbed my foot against the standard—I was a little discombobulated.”
Wordley described further, “I kind of took a bit of time on that corner to get myself organized, and I knew from then on it was going to be touch and go whether I got the time or not. I tried to catch up as best I could without sort of jeopardizing having a rail. I was really happy with her. She jumped fantastic. This is my first time doing the Invitational, and I love it. It’s going to be a focus for me next year too. I think it’s a great class.”