Wellington, Fla. – McLain Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) guided his mount Noche de Ronda to their second consecutive five-star grand prix win in two weeks, as the duo rose to the top of the $213,300 Longines Grand Prix CSIO5* today at Deeridge Farms. The pair crossed through the finish in 37.86 seconds to take the win, while Ireland’s Billy Twomey guided Kimba Flamenco through the timers in 38.29 seconds for second place ahead of Margie Engle and Dicas, who rounded out the top three placings with a jump-off time of 39.10 seconds.
McLain and Noche de Ronda, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by McLain Ward, Marilla van Beuren and Bob Russell, are coming off of an impressive performance in the $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* at the Winter Equestrian Festival last week, where they produced a remarkable jump-off round to collect their first five-star win of the year. Today, the duo executed in the same fashion and made their mark on the grass field at the Palm Beach Masters, topping a competitive class of 45 entries.
“She’s the most marish mare I’ve had,” said Ward. “She looks like this big, quiet, almost equitation horse, but she’s not. She’s very correct in her job, and she’s quite careful and has a big heart. Put all those things together, and you have a hell of a horse.”
Reflecting on last week’s performance, Ward noted that it’s important to test fitness and consistency at this point in the season, and he felt confident that Noche de Ronda’s would step up again this week and continue with her successful winter campaign. The pair were the first U.S. combination to qualify for the jump-off and made quick work of the short track.
“Last week, that was a pretty spectacular jump-off; it certainly took a little out of the horse. This is a horse that’s aimed at big things, and she’s going to be able to hold up to multiple days, and once in a while you have to do that program. I’m thrilled with the way she responded,” commented Ward.
Engle and Dicas, an 11-year-old Rhinelander gelding owned by Gladewind Partners LLC, have just started to compete consistently at the CSI5* level and Engle felt Dicas handled the difficult track with a visible excitement and presence in his return to competition following a break in his winter schedule.
“He felt great. He’s nice and fresh. He’s had three months off and I was hurt a bit earlier this circuit, so he’s feeling great. I had already given him a bit of a break before and he doesn’t usually love breaks, so he’s ready to go. He tries his heart out. He has a huge heart and always wants to please, so it’s a great combination to have,” commented Engle, as she discussed her round and partnership with the impressive gelding, who she has competed since 2017.
Engle went late in the order and produced a clear round to qualify for the jump-off, alongside fellow teammate Jessica Springsteen aboard Stone Hill Farm’s 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion Don Juan van de Donkhoeve. Springsteen stopped the timers in 47.12 seconds to finish the class with a double clear effort and fifth place in the overall standings.
“To be honest, I thought it was a really challenging course. It was tough enough and delicate. There were a lot of verticals that were definitely maximum height,” Engle explained. “The horses really love this venue though, and they jump great on the grass. You’ve got a good group of horses here, many of the top horse and rider combinations in the world, so it was just a really nice class.”
The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team is set to compete in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup USA on Sunday, February 16 at 1:30 p.m., in their first team outing of the year, as they look to secure qualification for the 2020 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final hosted in Barcelona, Spain this October.
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