WELLINGTON, Fla.--McLain Ward rode Catoki to win the $36,600 CSI5* Suncast Welcome Stake, part of the Palm Beach Open CSI5*/CSI2* on March 12, continuing a skein of wins that included winning three grand prix in two weeks.
Ward topped a strong field of 44 competitors, going halfway through the class and holding the lead through the remaining entries with a time of 57.91over Alan Wade's 1.45m speed track.
Jessica Springsteen on Volage du val Henry finished second on 59.00 seconds, with Ben Maher of Great Britain and Tic Tac just behind them in third on 59.29 seconds.
The win marked Ward's third with the horse, who stands just 15.2 hands high, in international competition since acquiring the gelding last November.
He says the bay is among the fastest horses he's ever ridden.
"He doesn’t have the hugest stride, and the lines weren’t very long, so that helped a little bit," said Ward. "He’s just so naturally quick across the ground. To be frank, you’re almost slowing down in a few places so that he doesn’t get away from you. He’s just naturally an incredibly fast horse."
WARD, WHO has recorded three five-star grand prix victories since Feb. 8, will seek his fourth this week, as he brings back Noche de Ronda to Deeridge Farms for the first time since he and the mare topped the $213,300 CSIO5* Grand Prix on Feb. 14.
Ronda will compete in Friday's $72,900 CSI5* Palm Beach Masters Qualifier, while Catoki will jump again in Friday's $36,600 CSI5* Speed Challenge.
"It’s been a great start to the season," said Ward. "We have great horses and great people, and everybody’s been going really well. Sometimes, especially down here in Florida, you get a little bit on a run, good or bad—I’ve been on both—and we’re just going to try to keep it going and stay focused and look at the next event."
Kristen Vanderveen rode Divine Fortune to the first CSI5* victory of the week, winning the $10,000 CSI5* Palm Beach Masters Warm-up.