SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. --McLain Ward on Kasper van het Hellehof won the $222,618 Grand Prix of The United States CSIO5* in a two horse jump-off att he San Juan Capistrano International on Friday, May 12.
Ward finished in a time of 37.42 seconds,beating Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia of Mexico on H-Lucky Retto in the two-horse jump-off.
Ward of Brewster, N.Y., on Kasper van het Hellehof went towards the end of the order in the first round set by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela, which proved to be a challenging track for the 21 competitors contesting the class.
Ward's win was his first CSI5* Grand Prix victory on Kasper in their three-year partnership.
“It’s a huge win," said Ward. "He’s been a great campaigner for us. His ownership team is a group of people who are really behind the United States and international competition, and it really makes it that much more special to win our home Nations Cup Grand Prix.”
WARD SAID that his getting Kasper’s first career FEI win, and on home soil, is something he hoped he would be able to achieve in front of the crowd in San Juan Capistrano this week.
“We’ve really grown in our relationship together and we had the opportunity to buy him with a group of supporters a few years ago and add him to our team. He’s been a wonderful addition,” he said.
“Kasper really performed beautifully,” said Ward. “He’s been a great campaigner for us. I thought Jose actually did the smart round. That’s what I thought he was going to do – be neat and clear and try to hope that I made a mistake and had a fence down. The first turn wasn’t great for me; Kasper’s left turn is a little bit difficult. He likes to kind of run off to the right. When I got that under my belt, I thought, ‘Just keep it smooth.’ I knew I was able to do one less to the last than Antonio.”
Ward said that Palacio is known for building challenging tracks that test combinations in multiple ways, and Friday's course was an early taste of what he expects to be built for Sunday’s Nation’s Cup class.
“Leopoldo is one of the most seasoned and one of the great course builders in the world over the past two decades. He has a super feeling,” said Ward. “He didn’t have a huge class today and we do have the Nations Cup coming on Sunday, but there were some strong combinations and he had to build at a 5* level.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s critical team competition, Ward said that the team’s focus is solely on their performance in the FEI Nations Cup USA class and earning qualification for the 2023 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona this fall.
“The most important part of this week for us is the Nations Cup. Our first opportunity this year to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is in Barcelona," said Ward. "Our backs are against the wall, and this is a must do and I think all the best riders, supporters, and horses for this country are trying to come together and get this job done.”
Ward's Nations Cup teammates Lillie Keenan of New York, N.Y., on Agana van het Gerendal Z narrowly missed the jump-off, barely touching the tape at the open water to finish fifth following her win Thursday, and Laura Kraut of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., on Calgary Tame finished with a fast eight faults to earn ninth overall.
Watch the FEI Jumping Nations Cup of USA at San Juan Capistrano CSIO5* live on FEI.TV at 3 p.m.,, ET.