Upperville, Va. – June 9, 2019 – As America’s oldest running horse show, the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (UCHS) has consistently hosted the world’s top athletes for over 165 years. This year’s competition, presented by St. Bride’s Farm, was no exception as the best of the best gathered to compete in the $208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, on Sunday afternoon. In front of a packed crowd, the United States’ own McLain Ward scored his fourth grand prix at the historic event when he bested a 13-horse jump-off with a double-clear effort aboard Beechwood Stables’ Contagious.
Thirty-four international athletes challenged Ireland’s Alan Wade’s first round track in the B&D Builders Jumper Ring I, and the field was eventually narrowed down to 13 combinations returning for the jump-off by clearing the course. Schuyler Riley (USA) and Katherine Gallagher’s Robin De Ponthual were the first pair to cross the finish line in under 40 seconds, breaking the beam at 39.05 seconds with all of the rails intact.
Three rounds later though, Olympic and World Equestrian Games gold medalist Ward entered the arena. He was efficient but conservative through the first half of the shortened track, as many of the previous athletes had issues at the double combination, but then he picked up the pace as he made his way home with Contagious. They galloped through the timers in a blazing 37.68 seconds to take over the top spot on the leaderboard.
Great Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire gave the win a shot with Gochman Sport Horse’s Roulette BH, galloping down the final line and leaving a stride out to the last oxer. All the poles were in place, but they were not quite fast enough, finishing in 38.06 seconds to take over second place, while Riley finished third and Ward earned his fourth title in the main event at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show.
Ward took over the ride of the 10-year-old gelding from Reed Kessler in August 2018, and the pair have quickly developed a strong rapport, helping the NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team win the 2019 $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO4* at the Winter Equestrian Festival in March. Ward described Contagious as a sensitive mount, but noted that is what makes him so careful. They are now aiming for the Pan American Games later this year in Lima, Peru.
Receiving rave reviews from exhibitors and spectators, the 166th Upperville Colt & Horse Show came to a close on Sunday in front of a packed audience and featured an exciting finale. The entire team will be working hard as they prepare to continue to host both international and local athletes at the prestigious and historic event in 2020.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
McLain Ward (USA) – $208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, winner
On his win:
“We’ve been very excited about Contagious. The Beechwood Group, Lisa and Annie Revers, have been great to support me with this young horse. We’ve been trying to develop him this season, aiming towards the Pan American Games. We had a nice WEF, he did very well in the Nations Cup there. We’ve been just trying to build him up and he’s been knocking on the door for a big win. I kept telling Lisa that he would win a great grand prix soon enough. We’re really excited that it came together and today was the day.”
On Contagious’ personality:
“I’m lucky to have great people behind me and the ability to have a great string of horses. We’re always developing that and looking for opportunities to add to it. I’m lucky to have Azur and Clinta but I think [Contagious] has the potential to be that kind of horse, he’s just a bit greener. Personality-wise, he’s a sensitive horse, a little bit afraid of his own shadow. I would say he’s a bit of a wimp to be honest, but that’s what makes him careful. You have to hold his hand from time to time, but he delivers when it counts.”
On the jump-off:
“[Contagious] is a pretty quick horse and I gave a little time at the combination because that seemed to be a trouble spot in the jump-off. It was a difficult rollback to the last line, which I thought was a bending eight, and I thought I could cut in on the skinny. Alan narrowed up on the oxer and I thought it was a good opportunity and the horse responded beautifully. We have good ground here and a great course builder and that produces great show jumping.”
On the Upperville Colt & Horse Show:
“I was saying yesterday and today that I have very fond memories here. I used to drive down here with my father in the old days. We would have a great six and a half hour drive together and we stopped for lunch and spent some time together. My father and I would compete in the grand prix, and sometimes it would be a nice drive home and sometimes it wouldn’t be a nice drive home. I was a bit nostalgic when we got off of the exit in Winchester because that’s where we would stay back in the day. Great compliments to all of the people involved here, the sponsors, but also the volunteers, the staff, everybody who has made great efforts in the last several years to bring this event, for show jumpers, up to a real top international level. Hats off to all of you, it’s phenomenal. For me to be able to come back here with my family — my god-daughter was champion in the hunters this week, my daughter is here, my wife — it’s a great way to end the week and I hope we have more events like this in our country and that this one keeps getting better and better as it has done in the last several years.”
Schuyler Riley (USA) – Third place
On the jump-off:
“I just started to get to know Robin in December because he had a career with another rider for quite some time. As we all know, at the top level, it’s a real partnership, and you want to have a relationship with the horse before you put your foot on the gas. Last week at Devon he was clear in the grand prix and we had a clear round in the jump-off. I really feel like I now have clicked with him and we have a really good partnership. He’s been feeling amazing, he’s jumping great, the courses have been fantastic and he has such a nice, big stride that the jump-off today really allowed me to use that to my advantage. I felt like it was time to take the chance and make some tight turns.”
On Robin De Ponthual:
“He has a really sweet personality. He’s an older horse, so he knows a lot about the sport already. It took a little time for us to get to know each other. He likes his job and it’s easy for him to do it and the more I get to know him, the more he is sort of like a big dog. He’s very talented!”
Barbara Roux – Upperville Colt & Horse Show President
On this year’s show:
“The board of Upperville was extremely pleased when the list of riders came out. We were doing a happy dance! We were so pleased to have McLain [Ward], Laura [Kraut], Adrienne [Sternlicht] and Devin [Ryan], the team that secured America a spot in the Olympics. That was a tremendous honor. We were so pleased to have Alan [Wade] here because Alan’s courses are always challenging and fair and they ask questions of the horse and the rider that the people watching the class really enjoy. Great job and thank you to everyone.”
Alan Wade (IRL) – Course designer
On Sunday’s competition:
“I was a little bit concerned with the weather coming through. Nick Grant was helping me, and I was a little concerned that I had the track a little too long as it started to rain. I added two seconds on to the time, which in hindsight I really didn’t need to do, but I felt it would’ve been fair if we had bad weather. It was a good class for Upperville and a 4* and I think it was quite an enjoyable class to watch.”
$208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Contagious / McLain Ward / USA / 0 | 86.08 / 0 | 37.68
2. Roulette BH / Amanda Derbyshire / GBR / 0 | 86.15 / 0 | 38.06
3. Robin De Ponthual / Schuyler Riley / USA / 0 | 86.15 / 0 | 39.05
4. Fellini S / Erynn Ballard / CAN / 0 | 82.54 / 0 | 39.43
5. Colestina H / Daniel Bluman / ISR / 0 | 86.25 / 0 | 39.88
6. Shorapur / Kevin Babington / IRL / 0 | 83.32 / 0 | 40.14
7. Viva Colombia / Brianne Goutal-Marteau / USA / 0 | 85.76 / 0 | 40.78
8. Simba / Beat Mändli / SUI / 0 | 82.02 / 4 | 39.52
9. Confu / Laura Kraut / USA / 0 | 85.43 / 4 | 40.87
10. Casall / Ali Wolff / USA / 0 | 85.41 / 4 | 41.87
11. Just A Gamble / Adrienne Sternlicht / USA / 0 | 87.31 / 4 | 42.99
12. Ace / Alison Robitaille / USA / 0 | 82.86 / 8 | 42.84