The King of Devon! Ward Wins $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon for Record Eighth Time

[Devon, PA] The heat settling over The Dixon Oval wasn’t going to faze anyone. The crowd stood six and seven deep along the rail, craning their necks, peering over heads and shoulders, just to catch a glimpse of him.

Continuing his reign of the historic blue stadium, McLain Ward was aptly nicknamed the King of Devon on Thursday night at the Devon Country Fair and Horse Show. Winning the prestigious $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon for a record-breaking 8th time will earn you a title like that.

“There are some places where things seem to go your way, and it’s always been that kind of a place for me,” said Ward, who rode Rothchild to the win over four others in a fast-paced jumpoff.

Ward and Rothchild over fence 10, which was problematic for many other riders. Photo ©Amy Dragoo

Devon is a charmed place for so many, but for none more so than Ward. Last year in a tearjerker of a night, he retired the great Sapphire before storming to his seventh Devon victory with Antares F.

Since then, the 12 year old Rothchild has risen among Ward’s deep string of grand prix horses. The distinctive chestnut gelding owned by Sagamore Farms picked up the biggest victories of his career in recent months with Ward; the $100,000 American Invitational in Tampa, FL in April, and now this.

It wasn’t exactly easy going, either. With a tight time allowed of 71 seconds, course designer Olaf Petersen Jr. crafted a twisty, windy 1.60m track that made the most of rather “plain” rails. There were no fancy solid walls or brightly-colored skinnies on this course.

However, there was a triple combination early on at 4abc, massive lines down both long sides of the arena, a white liverpool oxer that caused a few horses to put on the breaks, and as Petersen put it “the time allowed was jump number 14” on a course of 13 fences.

But the five who made it to the jumpoff were on, and made the most of every step. Devin Ryan, of Long Valley, NJ became the first clear early on in the order with No Worries, and eventually finished third on a double clear night. His horse has just recently moved up to the 1.50m level, with Old Salem two weeks ago being their first higher level grand prix.

“He’s such a naturally fast horse,” Ryan commented. “I said to myself, ‘well, be smooth, just try to put in a clean round’.”

Ryan on his way to a clear jumpoff round with No Worries. Photo ©Amy Dragoo

He and second placed finisher Andrew Welles of Wellington, FL both attested that their resuts were a career best, their eyes still glazed over with a mixture of shock and elation as they sat in the crowded press conference.

“A lot of the time we (riders) go to the grand prix and there’s 100, 125 people watching,” Welles enthused. “To go in there with the feeling in that ring, and then to go in and have success, I’m still on cloud nine.”

Welles gave it his all with "Boo" Photo ©Amy Dragoo 

Welles rode the 12-year-old mare Boo Van Het Kastanjehof, aptly nicknamed Boo. Rounding out the jumpoff was Callan Solem and VDL Torlando, who finished with a quick jumpoff time but had a rail for fourth place.

The crowd was pulling for 2013 Rolex/FEI World Cup Champion Beezie Madden, who received a hero’s welcome when she entered the Dixon Oval with her two mounts. But a single fault aboard Cortes ‘C’ in the first round left her out of the jumpoff with the stunning black gelding. And although Vanilla, a young mare that is the daughter of Madden’s Olympic partner Coral Reef Via Volo, jumped an impressive first round clear to qualify for the jumpoff, the 9-year-old Danish Warmblood lost some confidence in the jumpoff, first knocking a rail and then pulling up at two fences. Still, Madden finished 5th and 6th with Vanilla and Cortes ‘C’, respectively.

Throughout the night, the heat never abated, and the crowd pressed ever closer to the rail. But if anything it added to the intensity of this one-of-a-kind East Coast grand prix. Devon is lauded for its electric atmosphere and Europe-like crowd, where show jumping is a main attraction that draws thousands.

Some had been camped out next to the ring all day, staking out a prime spot in anticipation of this special class that comes but once a year. They sat through a variety show of multi-breed, multi-discipline events, another factor that makes Devon a standout event. And as the well-dressed crowd, outfitted to the nines in their classic bow-tie, sun dress, and lacy hat best cheered every horse on, time slipped back for a moment, to when equestrian sport was the top entertainment in town.

Top Ten - $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon

Rider | Horse | Round 1 Time | Round 2 Time

  1. McLain Ward | Rothchild | 0 | 0 | 33.56
  2. Andre Welles | Boo Van Het Kastanjehof | 0 | 0 | 35.81
  3. Devin Ryan | No Worries | 0 | 0 | 36.124
  4. Callan Solem | VDL Torlando | 0 | 4 | 35.978
  5. Beezie Madden | Vanilla | 0 | elim
  6. Beezie Madden | Cortes C | 1
  7. Thaisa Erwin | Matilda | 3
  8. Todd Minikus | Uraguay | 4
  9. Devin Ryan | Zosja | 4
  10. Lisa Jacquin | Chapel Z | 4

Devon is one of the United States' longest running horse shows. Photo ©ProEquest

Carson Kressley spotting! He won the Fine Harness Horse class with Hoof Prince. 

The crowd at the rail grew thicker as the afternoon's classes went on.

Coursewalking at sunset. 

Ward checks the cups. 

Welles didn't expect to finish 2nd to Ward.

Madden is flanked by her husband John Madden on the coursewalk.

Always a factor, Todd Minikus had just one unlucky rail with Uraguay. 

The crowd.

And, last but not least, the ribbon toss. 

Maggie Junkin will never forget this night!