McLain Ward and Sapphire Triumph in $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix at 52nd WIHS

Ward and Sapphire clear the final oxer. Photos © Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Thirteen-Year-Old Lillie Keenan Victorious in WIHS Equitation Finals

Washington, D.C. – October 30, 2010 – Tonight’s $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix presented by Washington Convention and Sports Authority, CSI 3* was an exciting example of the sport of show jumping and a qualifier for the FEI World Cup Finals in April. Two-time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, and Sapphire, owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock, came away with the win in the highlight class of the 52nd Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). Earlier in the evening, 13-year-old Lillie Keenan of New York, NY, won the WIHS Equitation Finals.

The WIHS continues through Sunday, October 31 with the best hunter, jumper, and equitation riders in the nation competing for top prizes at Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C.

Sapphire and Ward repeated the success that they had in 2008 in the grand prix at the WIHS when they were the fastest clear round in a jump-off of seven. There were 24 entries in tonight’s grand prix class, which was designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC.

First into the jump-off was the trailblazer in the first round, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny on Gael Force, owned by Missy Clark and North Run. They had two jumps down for eight faults in 37.77 seconds for a sixth place finish. Charlie Jayne (USA) and Athena followed them with a four-fault performance in 37.64 seconds. They ended up in fourth place.

Aaron Vale (USA) and Paparazzi 10, owned by Thinks Like a Horse and Norman Peterson, were next in and set the first clear round and the “Travelers Time to Beat” in 34.87 seconds with a fantastic jump-off ride. His time would hold up for second place.

“The whole jump-off was filled with fast riders,” Vale recalled. “Everybody was a speed demon in there. McLain, with the experience that he his horse, had an advantage. I was hoping to land from fence one and get back as quickly to do as possible. I thought that was my best chance to gain some time. I got six strides and McLain actually got five there. I got around about as good as I could have hoped. I was hoping my time would stand up, but Sapphire is such a good horse and she just has such a big stride. He was able to do four (strides) from the in-and-out to the other oxer and that just kind of sealed the deal there. He didn’t have to rush the two big verticals after that and he came home and just got us, but I think I did as much as I could.”

G&C Quick Star 11 and rider Pablo Barrios (VEN) would be the next to contest the shortened course. With a slower rollback from the first fence to the second, Barrios tried to make up time through the rest of the jump-off, but they were just off the winning pace with a clear round in 35.89 seconds. They would finish in third place.

Barrios described his jump-off course, “For me, I didn’t have the turn that I was expecting in the jump-off from one to two, so I had to slow down a little bit. I decided to just try to keep the rails up because I had a very bad jump-off last week in Harrisburg and I just went for a safe round. But she is still always fast even when you go slow.”

Sapphire and McLain Ward

Ward and Sapphire entered the ring to the cheers of the crowd, and the fever pitch only grew when they crossed the timers with a clear round in a time of 34.09 seconds, just fast enough for the win.

“I thought Michel really built a great course tonight. I thought it was challenging but fair, and it was a very appropriate course for a World Cup class. A tight ring, tight distances, so you really had to have that rideability,” Ward explained. “I thought my horse jumped beautiful in the first round. It felt very smooth. In the jump-off, I decided to do the four up at the end of the ring to the oxer and it got a little farther away than I had anticipated. It felt a little rough just for a few strides there, but when you have a partner like Sapphire you don’t have to be 100%. She is 110%, so she makes up for a lot of my mistakes.”

Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and HH Ashley, owned by Double H Farm, faulted at fence 11 for four penalty points in a time of 38.82 seconds and fifth place. Kent Farrington (USA) and Top Gun, owned by the Iron Horse Farm, had trouble heading into the in-and-out, pulling a rail and stopping at the “b” element. They retired on course and settled for seventh place.

Vale and his horse Paparazzi 10, a 13-year-old German Warmblood gelding by Prominenz, are competing in their first year together. “My horse is an older, experienced horse. This is my first season with him and he has won some classes, but he has been a horse that was a little hard for me to get a hold of. I am just starting to get to know him. He is real quick around the turns, but he doesn’t quite have the range and the stride to leave out in all of the lines. He was super tonight.”

Vale is a past winner of the President’s Cup Grand Prix in 2001 and 2003. He added with a smirk, “I was just looking to get gas money out of here and came out second, so I am pretty thrilled.”

Barrios was pleased with his G&C Quick Star’s performance, noting that this is their second show together indoors. He and the 12-year-old KWPN mare by Quick Star were clear last week in the first round of the grand prix in Harrisburg.

“She came straight to this class, this was the only class that she did this week because she did three classes last week and she was really good,” he said. “I think she is great indoors. This is my first time here ever and I have never done indoors here in the United States, so I am happy to be here and she is jumping great.”

Ward and Sapphire, a 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Darco, competed here at the WIHS for the first time since the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Ward explained of his plan, “On championship years, because I have gone so light leading up to the championships, I usually do a few shows afterwards. Not a lot, but a few. She is really healthy, (and) she feels as good as she has ever felt in her life. We really don’t have to be hard on each other to do the job. There are two or three really important shows that I am aiming for in December, but this is also a great chance to get inside. I thought this was a good venue for her. She has handled it well in the past, and it is an important horse show for us.”

All three riders feel that the Washington International Horse Show is a very important stop on their show jumping circuit.

McLain Ward and Sapphire joined by Erik Moses and Gregory O'Dell of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, ringmaster John Franzreb, WIHS President Mrs. Juliet W. Reid, and WIHS CEO Eric L. Straus

“This is a classic American horse show, it is traditional, it is an important grand prix, it is a world cup class and it is a wonderful opportunity for us to get our sport in front of some people and get a crowd in here to watch,” Vale described. “It is wonderful the prize money that the show puts up for us and we need to do the best we can to put a good show on for them.”

Ward added, “I think it is great to be here in the city. I hope we can stay for many years. I think it gives the show a real electric atmosphere. I think this is still a very prestigious show to win in our country, so I want to bring my best horse. I think this was one of the best fields there has been in a few years here, so that is exciting.”

For their win tonight, Ward and Sapphire were presented with the President of the United States Perpetual Cup. Rodrigo Pessoa, who won three classes this week, was named the Leading Jumper Rider and was presented with the Margaret Chovnick Memorial Trophy. He was also the Leading International Rider.

WIHS Equitation Finals Showcase Top Junior Riders

The top 30 junior riders in the nation took part in tonight’s WIHS Equitation Finals. Six judges in three judging positions around the ring determined the winners: Ralph Caristo and Alison Robitaille, Jimmy Torano and Chrystine Tauber, and Linda Hough and Joe Fargis.

Lillie Keenan and Uno

In her second year competing in the WIHS Equitation Finals, Lillie Keenan rode impressively through three rounds for victory. Adding to the unbelievable finish as one of the youngest riders to win the class is the fact that she has only ridden her mount Uno, owned by Madeline Turner, for two weeks.

“I’d never sat on him before (Harrisburg),” Keenan said. “He’s got such a big stride, and he’s so automatic. You have to control yourself from doing too much because he wants to do everything for you. You have to stay out of his way and let him do his job. I can’t thank the Turners enough for letting me ride such an amazing horse. It was really gracious of them.”

Keenan went into second place in the opening hunter phase with a score of 88.67 behind Molly Braswell of Ocala, FL, on The General, who scored a 89.67. In the jumper phase, she and Uno were consistent and took the lead with a score of 88.17.

For the third round, the top 10 riders came back and switched horses. Braswell was still in second place and came back on Baheera, the mount of Victoria Birdsall. She earned scores of 87, 87, and 91 from the three sets of judges for an third round average of 88.91 and a three round total of 265.082.

The highest score in the third round was set by Michael Hughes of Allandale, NJ, who rode Dynasty, the horse from Hayley Barnhill. Their average of 89.666 helped them rise three spots in the final order. Hughes’ three round total was 259.832 and he finished in third place.

Lillie Keenan and Massimo

Keenan was the final rider in the ring and she rode Massimo, the horse owned by fellow competitor Chase Boggio. Massimo, who stands 18 hands tall, was quite a different mount for the petite-framed Keenan. “I was a little nervous,” she admitted. “He’s huge, but I knew he would march right around and he would deal with everything perfectly. I tried to be as smooth as possible and leave the horse alone. He felt very different from my horse, but he knew exactly what he was doing. He’s a lovely, lovely horse.”

The judges awarded Keenan with scores of 91, 86.75, and 89 for a third round average of 88.91. This gave them a final total of 265.74, which was just enough for the win.

Keenan’s trainers, Patricia Griffith and Andre Dignelli, knew from the start that she was a talented rider. She proved herself many times in the pony ring, winning multiple Grand Pony Hunter Championships at all of the major horse shows in the country.

“Without Patricia and Andre and everyone at Heritage, I don’t think I would have been able to get to the ring and done as well as I did,” Keenan said.

“She was the lead qualifier coming into this event. It was hardly a fluke,” Dignelli pointed out. “I always knew that Lillie was a special rider. We’ve been winning championships with Lillie right from the beginning and it’s been really exciting for us. You can see how she’s inspired the other pony kids because it wasn’t that long ago that she was winning all of the accolades with the ponies. Now to see this happen for her so quickly, really at the same age other kids are still riding ponies, I think is really awesome.”

Griffith, who trained Keenan all through her pony career, was thrilled to see her student win tonight. “I couldn’t be more proud,” she expressed. “Like Andre said, we knew right away she was going to win. I knew she was going to win at least one final. I didn’t know it would be at 13, (but) I’m not surprised at all.”

“There’s always hope, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” Keenan said of her victory. “I always hope for the best. I knew I could trust the horse, I just needed to trust myself. I don’t have to worry about it again, so that’s kind of nice. It still hasn’t really kicked in. It’s really exciting.”

For her win, Keenan was presented with the WIHS Equitation Classic Trophy donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph G. Ours III. Uno won the Lugano Memorial Trophy donated by Stoney Hill.

The Washington International Horse Show concludes tomorrow with the championships for the Small, Medium, and Large Pony Hunters. The Local Pony Hunter Finals and the Local Hunter Finals will conclude competition and are followed by the World of the Horse exhibition.

For full results and more information, please visit

Final Results: $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix presented by Washington Convention and Sports Authority, CSI 3*-W

Horse, Rider, Country, First Round Faults, First Round Time, Jump-off Faults, Jump-off time, Owner

1. SAPPHIRE McLAIN WARD USA 0.00 63.92 0.00 34.09


2. PAPARAZZI 10 AARON VALE USA 0.00 62.09 0.00 34.87


3. G&C QUICK STAR 11 PABLO BARRIOS VEN 0.00 62.89 0.00 35.89


4. ATHENA CHARLIE JAYNE USA 0.00 63.64 4.00 37.64


5. HH ASHLEY RODRIGO PESSOA BRA 0.00 63.25 4.00 38.82


6. GAEL FORCE DARRAGH KENNY IRL 0.00 65.80 8.00 37.77


7. TOP GUN KENT FARRINGTON USA 0.00 65.13 ret.












Final Results: WIHS Equitation Finals

Rider, Horse, Hunter Phase Score, Jumper Phase Score, Work-Off Score, Final Total Score

1. Lillie Keenan, Uno: 88.67, 88.17, 88.92 = 265.748

2. Molly Braswell, The General: 89.67, 87.08, 88.33 = 265.082

3. Michael Hughes, Coco Pop: 88, 82.17, 89.67 = 259.832

4. Victoria Birdsall, Baheera: 85.08, 87.33, 85 = 257.416

5. Taylor Ann Adams, Fernway Park: 84.83, 84, 83.67 = 252.499

6. Amber Henter, Triumph: 84.67, 85.83, 80 = 250.499

7. Hayley Barnhill, Dynasty: 85, 83.50, 81.33 = 249.833

8. Chase Boggio, Massimo: 84.50, 85.67, 79 = 249.166

9. Hasbrouck Donovan, Wagoner: 87.42, 80.33, 77.67 = 245.415

10. Meg O’Mara, Waking Dream: 85.58, 83.08, 70.67 = 239.332

About the Washington International Horse Show
An equestrian tradition since 1958, the Washington International Horse Show brings top horses and riders from the U.S. and abroad, including Olympic champions, to the nation’s capital to compete for more than $400,000 in prize money and championship titles. About 500 horses participate in show jumping, hunter and equitation events during the six-day show. Special exhibitions, Kids Day, Barn Night, WIHS World of the Horse, boutique shopping and educational and community events round out this family-friendly show. Since its debut, the Washington International has been a popular Washington, DC, fixture visited by presidents, first ladies, celebrities, business and military leaders, as well as countless horse enthusiasts of all ages. WIHS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable organization, is headquartered in Washington, DC. Learn more at

© 2010 Jennifer Wood Media Inc.

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