Strong start for Olympic champions at 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival

McLain Ward and Hija van Strokapelleken
Credit : Sportfot

Friday 19 January - 11h56 | Ian Clayton and edited press releases

Strong start for Olympic champions at 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival

It has been a great start for Olympic Show Jumping champions at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. 

 - Strong start for Olympic champions at 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival

Eric Lamaze and Chacco Kid
Credit : Sportfot

Following American gold medalist McLain Ward’s first week win on Hija van Strokapelleken in an opening speed class — a feat he repeated this Wednesday in week two, with a triumph in another 1.45m Jumpers class on Bellefleur PS Z after a third place in last Sunday's Grand Prix — Canadian Eric Lamaze and Chacco Kid came out on top of a field of 109 combinations Thursday, winning the $35,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup. 

The Winter Equestrian Festival is a 12-week circuit of hunter, jumper, and equitation competitions continuing until April 1, 2018, offering more than $9 million in prize money. And as World No.1 Kent Farrington explained at a press conference earlier this month, some top riders use the opening weeks of the circuit in Wellington to develop up-and-coming horses. “I would say early on here, I’m going to try to have my younger horses do most of the jumping,” he said, “and I’ll save my seasoned veterans for bigger competition toward the end.”

Ward seemed to be following that philosophy to kick off the 2018 circuit. “I’d never shown her before,” he said of his victorious 11-year-old mare. “She’s a wonderful horse. She’s really capable of doing any Grand Prix. It was a little bit of an easy start for her, but she really performed beautifully.”

“We’re kind of using this week to get to know a little bit of where we are with her and to get to know her a little bit better,” the 2017 FEI World Cup Jumping Final winner added, “and so far so good. I’m really enjoying the ride on her.”

In contrast, Lamaze had a different strategy in mind using his more experienced partner early on in the circuit — a pairing which was followed by a rare three-way tie for second in the nine-rider jump-off. “I always start WEF with horses that I finished the season in Europe with,” said Lamaze, who finished off 2017 at big CSI5* competitions across the Atlantic.

“I like to keep them going because I feel that they were on form for Paris and Geneva, then I arrive and I continue with those horses. So, I had a bit of an advantage because most of the horses here have been on a layoff and mine was coming off some big shows.”

The experienced Canadian, who says he is excited about some of the new horses he has in development, complimented Mexican designer Oscar Soberon’s course Thursday: “Over a hundred started, over what I think was a brilliant course. To not have 25 in a jump-off is already an accomplishment, but I think his time allowed made the difference. It was a very technical course that had rails everywhere, so the course designer did a fantastic job on what I think is sometime the most difficult courses to build in the early weeks because you want everyone to have a good experience and you’re trying to build up the horses.”

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