WELLINGTON, Fla--McLain Ward on Quimi del Maset, a new addition to his string of top horses, won the $146,000 CSI4* 1.50m Series Final on Saturday evening, March 25 during the penultimate week of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
From a field of 58 starters, U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Ward won in a 12-horse jump-off with a second to spare over a course set by Olaf Petersen.
Ward was coming off a Rolex Grand Slam win at the Dutch Masters just a couple weeks ago.
Riding Quimi del Maset, a 9-year-old Spanish-bred sporthorse, Ward went in the middle of the jump-off and was clean in 44.34 to beat Charlotte Jacobs on Rincoola Milsean, clean in 45.40 seconds.
Brazilian Olympic Champion Rodrigo Pessoa on Major Tom was third in 46.49 seconds.
“I DID A jump-off two weeks ago with him and he’s actually quite a quick horse because he’s predictable. He’s got a big stride and you can really take a risk because his brain is incredible,” said Ward. “I was going to ride my round, but I thought for sure maybe some of the more experienced horses could nip us. We were lucky; this was his start under the lights and we are thrilled with how he performed.
“The horse had been on my radar last year, but the previous owners weren’t 100% sure they wanted to sell, but they were generous in thinking about the potential for the horse maybe going to the Olympics for the U.S. and worked with my group to get him here. I’m very grateful,” said Ward of the horse previously produced by Bolivian rider Daniel Bedoya, who jumped the then 8-year-old in the Central American Games in 2022 and earned an individual silver medal in the Bolivarian Games the same year.
While Ward won the Final, Ireland's Darragh Kenny’s consistency throughout the season, that included three recent top-five placings on three different horses, gave him the 1.50m Series overall title.
“I’ve been coming here for 12 years, and this is probably the best season I’ve ever had,” said the Irish Olympian. “I have some great horses at the moment, they all performed excellent during the season and I’m happy they had that much success.
“I had a couple of good and experienced horses between Vancouver Dreams and Chic Chic who were amazing all winter,” said Kenny. “I’m very lucky I have a couple of really good owners right now and some nice horses, so it’s been a top season for me. WEF is a great place where you can build up horses and your older horses don’t have to do so much, but there’s good prize money when you do jump them.”
Earlier in the evening, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Karen Golding and accepted on her behalf by her colleagues in the FEI Stewards department.
During the daytime competition, Nikko Ritter on Aquiles Del Caribe Z won $50,000 CSI2* Grand Prix
A field of 45 competed over Petersen Jr.’s course, with 11 from six different nations going clean to make the jump-off.
“Recently there’s just been such an upward trajectory with this horse; I honestly believe she’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” he said. “We were second in a three-star in Ocala recently, but this is our first real win. We originally found her while on a trip to Europe. I was there for 13 days and had all but accepted the idea that I wasn’t coming home with a horse and then we found her. I immediately liked her scope and the feeling she gave after the fences.”
Ritter travels the country with his boutique training and sales business but calls Wellington home.
“Anytime we’ve been able to get into a two-star here we’ve had really good results,” he said, explaining that the entry waitlist at this level of competition is steep. “She won her first national grand prix in the fall and did well in a national grand prix here under the lights this season. She’s just been building and looking forward to bigger and better things.”
Young up-and-coming rider Zayna Rizvi was second on Exquise Du Pachis, a second slower than Ritter with a time of 36.54 seconds.
France’s Marie Hecart on S.a.r.I Socrates was third.