McLain Ward and Alanine De Vains Master $100,000 FarmVet Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties
New York’s McLain Ward made his mark at the newly renovated HITS Saugerties showgrounds on Sunday, winning the $100,000 FarmVet Grand Prix during HITS-on-the-Hudson I. He piloted Alanine De Vains to the top of a seven-horse jump-off, besting second-place finishers Lauren Balcomb and Verdini D’Houtveld Z by just 3/10ths of a second. The third-place award went to Switzerland’s Beat Mandli and Chartraine Pre Noir.
“Both of my horses felt great,” said Ward after his win. “I think the improvements here at HITS are phenomenal. This is a local event for us, which is nice, we’re only an hour away. The footing, the condition of the facility, and the professionalism of its staff and managers are first-rate. We’re very excited to be here.”
Marina Azevedo set a welcoming track for the first Sunday grand prix of the season at HITS-on-the-Hudson. It featured an oxer-vertical double combination with a bending line to a triple bar, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination and two delicate verticals at the end of the course. Seven advanced to the tiebreaker, which utilized the expansive ring with several long gallops, including the second half of the triple combination, and finished with a bending line over two new verticals. Five produced another fault-free effort as they raced to earn a spot atop the leaderboard.
Heather Caristo-Williams posted the first clear round of the day with Celtic Hero BZ, but her time was soon beaten by Diego Perez Bilbao and Dialuna. Balcomb and Verdini D’Houtveld Z were next and even better, breaking the beam in a speedy 39.544 seconds. With Ward still to go with the experienced Alanine De Vains, though, the door was still open, and he could sneak through. They dashed across the finish line in 39.233 seconds to narrowly edge out Balcomb. Mandli and Chartraine Pre Noir were the last to return, but their clear effort in 40.449 seconds would fall just behind the leaders for third place.
Ward began riding Alanine De Vains, a 13-year-old Selle Francais mare, for Lindemann Barnett Sporthorses at the beginning of the year and has quickly built a partnership with the experienced horse. “I knew Lauren was going to be very fast,” noted Ward. “Her horse is typically a very quick horse and she’s very experienced with it. When she put up a good round, I knew that with Alanine De Vains I had to take the risk, and the mare is even better against the clock. She kicks into another gear, and that’s what she did today. She’s a feisty mare with a bit of character, but she is just a flat-out winner.”
Based out of Brewster, New York, Ward has been competing at HITS Saugerties for many years and was thrilled to see the improvements to the facility. “I think it’s fantastic,” he concluded. “The footing is excellent. I like the fact that we did some landscaping just to tighten up the ring a little bit. For me, it was a bit too vast, but now it has a little more character to it and presents very nicely.”
Jumper action at HITS Saugerties will continue over the next two weeks of the Spring Series as part of the complete HITS-on-the-Hudson season, which runs through September at the world-class facility. The Saugerties Spring Series will feature a $100,000 Grand Prix each week, in addition to the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix each Friday. Classics in the Junior/Amateur Jumpers close out the week, in addition to the High, Low and Modified Children’s and Adult Jumper Classics, which are qualifiers for the Marshall & Sterling Insurance League Finals.