June 4, 2011 -- McLain Ward?proved once again why he is considered one of the best riders in the world when he won his second Grand Prix in a row at HITS Saugerties. Just six days ago McLain Ward captured the blue in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, aboard his own Oh'D Eole. This time around McLain Ward, riding Blue Chip Bloodstock's Domino, edged out 35 other starters to take home the top prize in Friday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Aside from being a coveted Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix qualifier, Friday's class at HITS Saugerties also benefited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Canadian Danny Foster set the course which featured 16 efforts in the first round, including a triple combination mid-way through the route that proved troublesome for 16 of the entries in the class. "This was a difficult course and the wind was definitely a factor," explained Ward, a decorated U.S. Olympian. "But I am excited about how well we did."
The first clear ride of the afternoon came 11 trips into the class when Jonathan McCrea of East Windsor, CT, rode Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, Inc.'s Colorado to a flawless first-round finish. The next two riders to show, Schuyler Riley of Wellington, FL, with South Beach Stables' Lapacco, and Ward aboard Domino, also went clear, making it three for the jump-off with just about half of the class left to show.
When the first round was over, five riders advanced to the jump-off, including Ali Wolff of New Albany, Ohio, with John Wolff and Blacklick Bend Farm's Lanoo, and Darragh Kerins of Wellington, FL, aboard Miranda Fischer's Hot Wheels. The jump-off proved to be an intense battle to the finish as each of the five riders went double-clear, making it truly a test of speed that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats right to the very end. McCrea and Colorado went first and set the Great American Time to Beat at 48.331 seconds.
Riley and Lapacco took over the lead next with a time of 46.455 seconds. Ward and Domino followed and shaved nearly two seconds off the pace with a time of 44.461 to take the lead away from Riley. "Despite the difficulty, we had a good, galloping jump-off," said Ward. "[Domino] has a big stride and the jump-off suited him."
Wolff and Lanoo posted a clear effort in 50.440 seconds, which earned them fifth place. Kerins and Hot Wheels had the last chance to catch Ward's time and nearly captured the win, but came up a fraction of a second short with a time of 44.934, which was good enough to earn him the red ribbon.|
"The combinations on this course were trouble," said Kerins. "It's been three years since I've shown [Hot Wheels] in a Grand Prix and Thursday was the first time I had ridden him in several months, but I am very happy with how he jumped. It was a speed jump-off and we went as fast as we could, but we couldn't top McLain."
Kerins and Hot Wheels will return on Sunday for the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, when they will have another chance to go head-to-head with McLain and Domino, as High-Performance riders continue to flock to Saugerties in the hopes of qualifying for this year's Pfizer Million.