Catoki Goes Out on Top at WEF 2023
Five-time U.S. Olympian Mclain Ward and Catoki claimed one final victory on Friday during the Rolex-sponsored final week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Wellington International. They once again rose to the top in the $39,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI5* 1.45m Speed.
The International Ring was abuzz with five-star energy as world-renowned stars of the sport brought forth their best horses for the weekend ahead. Guilherme Jorge (BRA) built to impress as horse-and-rider combinations from 20 different nations took to the one-round event.
From 19 clears, Bob Russell, Marilla Van Beuren, and Ward’s co-owned 14-year-old Westphalian gelding had the speed to take the pair’s third FEI win of the 2023 WEF season. Catoki (Catoki x Caretello B) held firm to the title position by less than half a second with another lightning-fast finish in 57.75 seconds
“I don’t even really remember the rounds after because they happen so fast on him,” Ward laughed. “We often joke that he probably doesn’t remember them either. I made a mistake in the speed class on Wednesday because I watched so many go that I had an error at the end just trying to be too fast. Today, I decided to stick to my plan and stay at his speed which always works out best.”
Catoki’s pony-like speed has proved clutch for Ward this season after kicking off the year with a win in the Prestige Italia Grand Prix during opening week of competition at WEF. “He’s so tiny that he is basically a pony, but he has the heart of a lion,” said Ward. “He has jumped some massive classes, including twice in the Puissance, so you know he has the bravery and he matches that with speed, which makes an incredibly quality partner.”
Rising star Cathleen Driscoll (USA) climbed to a second-place finish with a tight and tidy round aboard Don Stewart’s 12-year-old Polish Sport Horse mare Flotylla (Alvaro 121 x Bajou Du Rouet). The duo dominated the course and came threateningly close to eclipsing Catoki’s time but missed him by less than a second to finish in 57.93 seconds.
Petronella Andersson boasted a top-three finish for her home country of Sweden as she piloted Stephex Stables’ nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Odina Van Klapscheut (I Am Moerhoeve’s Star x Landor S) to third place roughly a second slower than Driscoll with a time of 58.81 seconds.
CSI5* competition comes to a peak in the International Arena during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ on April 1 at 7:30pm when the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix takes center stage.
Catoki Goes Out on Top at WEF 2023 (wellingtoninternational.com)