McLain Ward has been the Devon Horse Show leading open jumper rider five times in the last 10 years. But for the last three years, Laura Chapot has taken that honor.
Judging by Ward's performances in the first two open jumper classes of this year's show, though, it looks as if he's determined to take that title back.
Ward, of Bedford Hills, N.Y., rode his Goldika to win the $7,500 open jumper speed class yesterday afternoon, finishing an incredible six seconds faster than second-place Darragh Kerins on Toscane R.
In a sport in which first and second places are usually only tenths of a second apart, six seconds is a world apart.
Then, in last night's $7,500 open jumper time first jump-off class, Ward just missed making it a daily double, placing second to Hillary Dobbs on Corlett.
In a four-horse jump-off from a field of 21 starters, Dobbs, daughter of CNN's Lou Dobbs, went third and posted the first clean round in 39.957 seconds.
Ward, on Larioso, made a determined effort to win and did have the best time of 38.234. But he had the second-to-last fence down to settle for second.
Ward, a member of the U.S. gold-medal-winning team at the Athens Olympics, is a member of the 10-man squad that will compete in Europe this summer in Super League shows to decide the four-man team that will compete in this summer's Olympics. The equestrian events of the Games will be held in Hong Kong because of quarantine restrictions in other parts of China.
Ward will leave June 14 for Europe, where he will compete at Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Aachen, Germany, and San Patriano, Italy. An almost sure bet to make the team, Ward plans to stay in Europe until the team leaves for Hong Kong.
His Athens mount, Sapphire, is having a break from competition until Rotterdam, and Goldika will be used as his speed horse.