McLain Ward and Contagious made it look easy in the featured four-star $216,000 Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix Saturday at the Stadium Derby Field at Equestrian Village.
Going first in a four-rider jump-off, the 2020 Olympians put the pressure on with a blazing fault-free, 42.95-second round that reigning Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher of Great Britain, Zoe Conter of Belgium and St. Andrew’s alum Ali Wolff were unable to beat.
Ward, 46, of Wellington and Brewster, N.Y., ranked 13th in the world, won $71,280 to end a successful week with the 13-year-old Rheinlander gelding owned by Beechwood Stables.
It was the duo’s second victory in three days. On Thursday, Ward and Contagious topped a field of 65 riders in the opening round and eight in the jump-off to win the $50,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup.
“I’m incredibly lucky with Contagious because he is a super careful horse so you can take a shot like we did on Thursday, and if anything, it will give him a bit more energy or gas for the weekend,” Ward said. “It doesn’t screw you up for the grand prix which is a great asset.
“Today’s course was very challenging, and there is not a whole lot of difference between a four-star and five-star grand prix anymore. What they may lose in spread from a five-star to a four-star, they make up for in time allowed and trickier questions.
“It was a classic test with big jumps, and nothing is soft out here anymore. Every day we are going out to battle which is challenging but it is also brilliant and produces great sport.”
Ward and Contagious led the U.S. to a team silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s funny because the first horse show I brought him back to after the Olympics, I walked up to get on him for the qualifier and said to Lee [McKeever], ‘he looks different after the Games,’” Ward said. “I didn’t originally think of him as an Olympic medalist horse, but he grew from that experience and came out a better and more confident horse, and for sure my belief in him grew after that experience as well.
“At this point, he is normally clear in a competition or I’ve made a mistake. He’s got a lot of heart and is a fighter which really bodes well for him.”
Conter, 21, and her longtime teammate Davidoff De Lassus, a 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse stallion, were second in 44.92. She won $43,200 in one of her biggest finishes on the circuit. The up-and-coming rider is working with Canadian Olympic gold medalist and legendary trainer Eric Lamaze and it shows.
“My horse jumped his heart out for me today,” Conter said. “I’ve had him for quite a few years now, and he has been key to stepping into the five-star grand prix. We have a lot of confidence in each other so it’s a great partnership. Today’s track was very well built, and I’m just happy I can rely on him like that and that things went well today.”
Wolff, 33, and 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding Casall were third in 45.70 to win $32,400.
“I was the slowest of the four to jump off, but I was honestly just happy that I got to return,” Wolff said. “This horse has taken me to the top level of competition and I am trying to maintain myself there while respecting his wishes as well. Simply put, I am thrilled my horse can still compete at this level. He is built on so much heart and trust right now and that is the only reason I got through that course.”
Maher, ranked fifth in the world, and Ginger-Blue dropped the first rail of the Bainbridge double and finished as the only four-faulter in the jump-off with a time of 43.22 for $21,600.
Chloe Reid, 25, won the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider award after earning the highest number of points among all women riders during the fourth week of competition.
Final Results: $216,000 Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix CSI4*
1. CONTAGIOUS: 2009 Rheinlander gelding by Contagio x For Keeps
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Beechwood Stables LLC: 0/0/42.95
2. DAVIDOFF DE LASSUS: 2009 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Ugano Sitte
ZOE CONTER (BEL), Stephex Stables: 0/0/44.92
3. CASALL: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Capitol I
ALI WOLFF (USA), Blacklick Bend Farm: 0/0/45.70
4. GINGER-BLUE: 2011 KWPN mare by Plot Blue 2 x Royal Bravour
BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane Forbes Clark: 0/4/43.22
5. COSMONA: 2011 Danish Warmblood mare by Cosmeo x Bogegardens Apollo
GIAVANNA RINALDI (USA), Anton Marano: 1/84.04
6. KILLER QUEEN VDM: 2010 Belgian Warmblood mare by Eldorado vd Zeshoek x For Pleasure
DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables: 2/85.65
7. MALIBU DE MUZE: 2012 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Nabab de Reve x Tornedo FCS
SERGIO ALVAREZ MOYA (ESP), Sergio Alvarez Moya: 4/78.47
8. SOUPER SHUTTLE: 2011 Hanoverian mare by Stakkato x La Zarras 2
CHLOE REID (USA), Live Oak Plantation LLC: 4/79.35
9. PACINO AMIRO: 2012 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Pacino x NC Amiro
BERTRAM ALLEN (IRL), Aiden McGrory: 4/81.30
10. CONTAGO: 2011 Oldenburg gelding by Cornet Obolensky x Cassini II
EUGENIO GARZA PEREZ (MEX), El Milagro: 4/82.03
11. FTS KILLOSSERY KONFUSION: 2010 Irish Sport Horse gelding by SIEC Livello x Cruising
JOS VERLOOY (BEL), Eurohorse BVBA: 4/82.09
12. LEGACY: 2010 Zangersheide mare by Chippendale Z x Bon Ami
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Ariel Grange: 4/82.52