A beautiful, sunny afternoon in Thermal, Calif., set the stage for 29 riders to compete over a course designed by Ireland’s Alan Wade, but it was USA’s McLain Ward and Rothchild that captured the win of the $100,000 Coachella Valley Classic at the CSI5* National Sunshine Series II.
The 1.50-meter FEI course held 21 horse-and-rider pairs from advancing into the jump off. And the final round proved nearly as tricky, resulting in four rounds with rails and only three double clears. Lucy Davis and Barron jumped clear in Round 1 but chose not to return for the jumpoff.
Ward, aboard Sagamore Farms’ 14-year-old chestnut gelding (Artos Z x Elegant de L’Ile), rode fastest of all three double clears. With a time of 45.95 seconds, he was nearly two seconds faster than runner-up Jamie Barge’s (USA) time of 47.04 aboard Luebbo. Eric Navet (FRA) and Jonkheer Z passed through the timers at 49.30 seconds for third.
“I’m a huge fan of Alan Wade,” Ward said. “I think he’s one of the best course designers in the world. He has some of good riders here with Beezie [Madden], Kent [Farrington], Will Simpson, Lauren [Hough], so he could build enough a good, strong, 1.50-meter track.”
“I’m a huge fan of Alan Wade. I think he’s one of the best course designers in the world.”
In the position of fifth in the order to return for the jump off, Ward had the advantage to see some of the faster rides from Farrington (USA) and Simpson (USA) score faults from rails.
“I knew I needed to ride the jump-off round neat, not crazy,” Ward said. “It’s a $100,000 class so there’s nothing to be shy about. I kept Sunday in mind and to not use up my horse. But there was enough money to try to be competitive.”
Farrington completed the fastest round, clocking in at 40.61 seconds, but with a rail down, he and Gazelle finished in fourth. Fifth place went to Paris Sellon (USA) and Adare, also with one down and a time of 45.00 seconds.
Ward and Rothchild will also partner together to attempt a second win at the show in Sunday’s $350,000 Sunshine Grand Prix CSI5* class.
“He likes it here,” Ward said of his talented Belgian warmblood. “He was great here in the spring in the Million. He was very good Wednesday and is in good form. He’s setting up nicely for Sunday.”
“I enjoy coming to the West Coast,” Ward added. “I have some family here, and I enjoy it out here. It’s nice to have some really big competitions, like the LA Masters and the shows in Del Mar, that are events worth making the trip for, and it’s just as far of a trip as to Europe. Plus, it’s nice to see the sport coming up out here.”
Watch Ward and Rothchild in Sunday’s grand prix on HITS TV. The livestream will begin 2pm PST here: http://www.hitsshows.com/hits-video.