McLain Ward & Noche de Ronda Earn a Valentine’s Day Victory in the Longines Grand Prix CSIO5* at Deeridge Farms
McLain Ward (USA) and Noche de Ronda eclipsed a top-tier field of 45 in the $213,300 Longines Grand Prix CSIO5* on Valentine’s Day at Deeridge Farms. Fifth to return for the shortened track, Ward’s time of 37.86 seconds was enough to sneak past Billy Twomey (IRL) and Kimba Flamenco in second place, with Ward’s countrywoman Margie Engle and Dicas in third.
Twomey returned second in the jump-off, laying down the gauntlet and maximizing Kimba Flamenco’s impressive foot speed to dash through the timers on 38.29 seconds.
“I wanted to try to put it up to the other riders; my horse is naturally a fast horse. McLain’s horse obviously has a really big step, and he was able to leave out [a stride in the first bending line], and he probably ended up a little faster than me there,” said the Irish rider, who is competing for the first time at the Palm Beach Masters Series®. “I’m really happy with the way my horse performed; he always seemed in good shape.”
This is the second five-star grand prix win in the space of a week for Noche de Ronda and Ward, who planned their season with Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Week CSIO5*/CSI2* at Deeridge Farms in mind. “We were going to do a smaller grand prix earlier in the season, and then do these two weeks [in Wellington] back-to-back, to kind of get her up and running and in gear, [and] get her fitness level up to speed,” Ward explained, adding that he was particularly delighted with the mare’s performance in the second round.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games (JPN) less than six months away, Ward, a notoriously careful planner, is leaving no detail to chance, especially when it comes to Noche de Ronda. “Last week, [the jump-off] took a little bit out of the horse. This is a horse that’s aimed at big things, and she’s going to have to hold up to multiple days. Once in a while, you have to do that program, and I’m thrilled by the way she responded,” he said.
“She’s very correct in her jump, she’s very correct in her way of going, and she’s quite careful and [has] a big heart. So, you put all those things together with her power and scope, and you have a hell of a horse.”