American star Ward shines to take Grand Prix purse
IN a thrilling 10-horse jump-off -- and riding a horse he has had for only three weeks -- American show jumping star McLain Ward scooped the €66,500 winners' purse in the Longines Grand Prix at the Failte Ireland Dublin Horse Show yesterday.
Ireland had three through to the second round showdown, but Ward's big grey Antares simply galloped the opposition into submission with a scorching run against the clock.
And the 34-year-old rider from Brewster, New York, dedicated his victory to the memory of his groom's mother, Jean McKeever, who died two weeks ago.
"Lee McKeever came to the US 23 years ago from Dublin, and he has been with us ever since," said the double Olympic champion. "I'd like to dedicate this moment to his family -- I have great people behind me and Lee is one of the best".
Ten horses went into the jump-off and the first clear came from Ireland's Denis Lynch and Nabab's Son, but his time of 46.59 seconds was blown away by America's Laura Kraut and Cedric.
With just three horses left to go, Ward set off with Antares, who raced through the finish in 43.45 seconds.
Ireland's Billy Twomey had a real cut at it with the stallion Je T'Aime Flamenco, but came in at 44.90 seconds, and reigning European Champion, Frenchman Kevin Staut, pushed him down to third.
Irish tails will be up, however, following seven wins from 13 international classes. America's Beezie Madden took the Leading International Rider award, while Limerick's Paul O'Shea claimed the Leading Irish International Rider trophy.