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Press Release

ATTACHED PHOTOS

McLain Ward and Invitational champ Rothchild competing for the USA at Aachen, Germany.

McLain Ward and Rothchild win the 2013 American Invitational.

McLain Ward and Sapphire led the victory gallop at the American Invitational in 2008

McLain Ward smile after Sapphire Win in Rome

McLain Ward, always one of the fan favorites at the American Invitational

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Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward Goes For Record Fourth Win in $200,000 American Invitational, presented by G & C Farm

Written by: Kenneth Kraus
Client: American Invitational http://www.stadiumjumping.com/sj/index.cfm
Release Date: 2014-04-02

Miami, Florida - April 3, 2014 - - When the $200,000 American Invitational, presented by G & C Farm, lifts off at its new home at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, on Saturday, April 5th, two-time Olympic Gold medalist McLain Ward will have a chance to accomplish something no other rider has ever been able to do through the forty-one year history of the event. That challenge is to win this historic class for a fourth time.

Ward, as the defending champion with Rothchild, will also have a chance to become only the third rider in history to win in back to back years. Ward first won the big event in 1998 and still has great memories of that first victory on Twist du Valon. "I believe it was the last year in the old stadium. Twist du Valon was a very careful horse and he kind of rose to the occasion on those big days. The American Invitational was something that, at a very young age, was pretty special to win" he remembered.

Ward had to wait ten years and suffer through a couple of incredibly tough defeats before he posted his second victory. He was fifth in 2005 and then in 2006, he lost to Beezie Madden and Authentic by a heartbreaking 18/100ths of a second, the tightest finish in American Invitational history. "I remember the last jump was a wall. You had to make a left hand turn to a skinny blue and white wall. In fact, there had been double walls in the first round," Ward recalled. "Before that, there was a rollback to a natural oxer and I took one too many strides. I remember all the way to the last fence kicking myself, thinking 'oh man, you gave it up.'"

Then in 2008, as probably the craziest night in American Invitational history unfolded, it was Ward and his Olympic partner Sapphire emerging with the unconventional win.

That night, Ward had to endure a massive thunderstorm that blew in just as he was turning for home, getting ready to complete the first round. Sapphire was clear to that point, and then all hell broke loose. The jumpsblew down, torrential rains poured in from lightning filled skies, and Ward had to exit the ring with a just a couple of jumps to go to qualify for the jump-off.  Forty minutes later, he returned and finished the course, without faults.

"I think in normal circumstances that would have been a really difficult thing to do, but I had gotten to a low point a little bit mentally," Ward admitted. "I had turned very open mindedly to try and apply some sports psychology to our sport. So, it actually was very easy for me. I was really ready for that mentally, and I was able to execute on that night in a really extreme situation."

Ward indeed calls the 2008 American Invitational victory, the most important win of his life.

"That class was a real turning point in my career," he admitted. "I'd had a terrible Florida up until that point. I'd been distracted and I really wasn't doing very well. Sapphire had been competitive, but not winning as much as she should have been. I had become so frustrated that the week before, I actually made contact with Bob Rotella, the sports psychologist. I spent the week there in the hotel room in Tampa, reading two of his books. That was a real turning point in my career, because the amount of concentration I was able to keep that night was remarkably, the most I'd ever done in my career. I think it was the beginning of a pretty amazing run with Sapphire."

Those legendary battles between Ward and Madden and Authentic and Sapphire marked a golden age in the history of American Show Jumping, a period of time that started with a Gold medal at the Olympics in Athens, a Silver WEG medal at Aachen and then led to another Olympic Gold medal at Hong Kong. "We were on a real upswing. We had Sapphire and Authentic, two great horses with good riders and good programs, in the prime of their careers, at the same time. They were bookended by Royal Kaliber on the front end and Cedric on the back end," Ward noted. "As I say repeatedly, there's no shortage of very good riders and very good programs, and people willing to go out and buy good horses, but it's always a cycle. It's that way in any sport. It's not because the team works any less hard or the athletes work any less hard. It's just athletics, and at the end of the day for us, the horse is the athlete," he said.

And then last year, his third American Invitational victory came on one of his most dependable and versatile horses, Rothchild.

"There were a couple of near misses. I was third on Rothchild the year before he won," he recalled. "He'd gone great in the Invitational twice. It's always a class we've aimed for."

Ward will now try and make history in a number of different ways. As the event moves to Sun Life Stadium, he'd like to become the first winner in Miami, of course. In so doing, he would also become the only rider in history to win the American Invitational four times.

"It's a difficult challenge. It's a very high standard of class. It's a unique atmosphere to walk straight into a massive stadium like that. You just need a very special horse to win that kind of and that level of competition."

Ward, while retaining some of his best memories from the days in Tampa, looks forward to the rebirth in South Florida.

"I gave that a lot of thought. Particularly when Michael Morrissey brought it up to me a few months ago," he explained. "I think Miami is a natural progression. Sometimes I don't like change, but change has to happen for the sport and a class to stay current. I think with the amount of people based in South Florida and with the sports in Miami, it really makes a lot of sense. I think there's a larger equestrian base to draw from and the mainstream equestrian community will be more willing to make the 45 minute drive to Miami, but they weren't going to drive five hours to Tampa."

Ward also thinks the sport is beginning to draw a larger and larger Latin American participation which in turn makes the move to Miami even more important. "Absolutely, you hear more Spanish being spoken at the show here in Wellington then you do English. It's become a very worldly place. It's great to see that kind of participation, and I'm sure that Miami will be a great draw for them. I think also Miami, for a lot of the community, could be a getaway type destination," he said. "You can go down and spend the night at a nice hotel, have dinner and include the class. Which I always have thought is the way to market our sport. Using the example of the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas - people use that as a vacation and watch the World Cup finals in the evening."

"I'm glad that not only the American Invitational, but Stadium Jumping has really had a great rebirth under the direction of Michael Morrissey. I think the class is going to live on for many years to come, and hopefully, I'll be able to win it a few more times."

Tickets for the American Invitational are sale now. Also, special up close tables in the Wells Fargo Private Bank Club, ringside at Sun Life Stadium, are on sale as well. The club offers the perfect location to watch America's most challenging and exciting show jumping event. In addition to the great location, the club will feature sensational catering, your favorite beverages and first class service. The Wells Fargo Private Bank Club will be available for use during both the Hollow Creek $25,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Amateur Classic, as well as the main event, the $200,000 American Invitational, presented by G & C Farm.

For general seating, you can avoid online ticket fees by calling the stadium box office now at (305) 943-6311.

Visit the official charity for the American Invitational, Just World International at: www.justworldinternational.org

The prize list for the American Invitational can be found here.
http://www.stadiumjumping.com/#!athlete-information/cr6r

Ringside VIP tables available at Sun Life Stadium.  Please email: Matt.morrissey@stadiumjumping.com for more information.
For Sponsorship information please contact:
 
Connie Sawyer 518-461-6288 or sawyer.equestrianevents.@gmail.com
April Wehle 561-459-9259 or aprilw@stadiumjumping.com

 

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