Irish rider Kevin Babington, who lives and trains in nearby Gwynedd Valley, PA, won the Devon Horse Show’s signature event with Mark Q.
Kevin Babington and Mark Q repeated their 2011 victory in the $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*, beating Danielle Torano and McLain Ward in a three-horse jump-off.
A crowd of 9,000 spectators turned out for the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair's highlight event. Only three were able to master the first round, and it was Babington, of Gwynned Valley, PA and Mark Q that were the pathfinders. Returning at the top of the tiebreaker, they once again left all the rails intact to set the pace to beat at 38.43 seconds.
The second to return was Danielle Torano, Mohrsville, PA, aboard Callas III. With a slightly more conservative path on the 9-year-old mount, the rider and mother of two cleared the track in 39.49 seconds to take over second place behind Babington. At the end of the night, Torano was honored with the Richard E. McDevitt Style Award for the rider who exemplified the best style of riding.
The crowd roared when the final rider of the night entered the Dixon Oval. Olympian McLain Ward on his Pan American Gold medalist-mount, Rothchild, seemed like a sure bet. Coming off a streak of eight international victories, Ward seemed unstoppable. And he was. Until the last fence.
As the crowd let out a yell at the penultimate vertical, Rothchild lost his focus on the homestretch to the final oxer and ducked out at the fence, much to the shock of all who watched. The error left Ward to pick up the third place prize while Babington led the lap of honor.
What makes Rothchild great is that he's sensitive, he's sharp; he's a little fireball," explained Ward. "The place erupted and I think that rattled him slightly, but that's brilliant. That's what we need in the sport. I wouldn't want it any different. I need to deal with it better; he needs to deal with it better. That's what makes this place so special."
Winning an international event five years later with the same mount takes a special horse, and for Babington, Mark Q is his favorite mount of all time.
"Carling King made me and is the horse of a lifetime," said Babington. "Mark Q is my favorite horse that I've ever had. He's stepped up to the plate so often, and he's kept me in the sport and kept me jumping big classes, even when he shouldn't have. Now, at 14, he's jumping better than he has ever jumped."
The following day, the FEI announced that Ward had shot from fourth to the top of the Longines Rankings, the world Jumping rankings. Ward is on the US Olympic short list with two horses, HH Azur and Rothchild.
The Grand Prix was a hiccup in Ward’s three week winning streak. He had his eighth international victory in a row the night before the Grand Prix in the $40,000 Devon International Speed Stake CSI4*, piloting Tina La Boheme to the fastest clear round.
Fourth on course, Amanda Derbyshire of Great Britain set the pace to beat at 60.29 seconds with a clear round aboard Goldbreaker, ultimately finishing second. Kevin Babington was one of the select few to come close to the 60-second mark, stopping the clock at 60.30 seconds with Mark Q for third place.
Last on course, Ward and Tina La Boheme executed a flawless performance as they took the inside options, finishing in 58.49 seconds for his second victory at the Devon Horse Show.
On Tuesday, May 31, Ward won the $50,000 Devon Welcome Stake CSI4* aboard Tina La Boheme and also placed second with Rothchild.
Ward settled for second place in Friday night’s $25,000 Open Jumper Devon Speed Challenge behind Haley Gassel and Quite Dark 2, who had the only clear round in 65.500 seconds. It looked like Ward had the ride of the night on HH Best Buy, and while they were faster than Gassel across the ring, the faults added to their time of 67.279 seconds put them in second place.
This is only Gassel's second year competing at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and it's her first year competing in the Open Jumpers with Quite Dark 2, who she has been riding for three years.
"That is unbelievable," she said about her victory over the world's best. "That will never happen again, that is a bucket list right there! He was really nice about it, though. He put in a really good round and it just wasn't in his favor tonight."
On Saturday night, June 4, Ward captured his third victory, winning the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake aboard Tina La Boheme.
First of six in the jump off, Laura Chapot set the pace to beat with her first mount Thornhill Kate, clearing the track in 37.082 seconds. Ward and Tina La Boheme were four seconds faster and left all the rails intact, crossing the finish line in 33.906 seconds.
Only Chapot was able to beat her initial time on Quointreau Un Prince. The duo had a faultless time of 36.660 seconds to place second, while she and Thornhill Kate took third. The fourth place prize went to Danielle Torano and Callas III, the only other pair to clear the short course.
Ward was named Open Jumper Champion with Tina La Boheme and the Leading Open Jumper Rider. After placing second and third in Saturday's main event, the Carol Hoffman Thompson Leading Lady Rider Challenge Trophy was presented to Laura Chapot, who also earned the title in 2014.
Liza Boyd bested the field of 24 to take home the blue ribbon aboard Like I Said in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. In the first round, Nick Haness set the score to beat on Countdown, finishing with a score of 191. After the first round, Louise Serio, Kennett Square, PA, was in second place aboard El Primero with a score of 187. Sandy Ferrell waited in third place on Meredith Lipke's Fifty Shades with a score of 183. Boyd sat in fourth aboard Billie Steffee's Maggie May with a score of 181.
Boyd and Pony Lane Farms' Like I Said entered the handy hanging back in fifth place with a score of 178.5. As Boyd returned on Like I Said, her tidy turns and forward ride caught the attention of the judges, earning her a whopping score of 213, including the added 9.5 points for handiness and four for choosing the high options. Much to father Jack Towell's excitement, Boyd exited the ring and waited for the class to finish with a total score of 391.5.
Ferrell, Bernville, PA, and Fifty Shades delivered a smooth ride as well, choosing to take three of the high options and impressing the judges to earn the duo and extra seven points for handiness for a final score of 379 and second place. Third place went to Sloane Coles, who piloted Autumn Rhythm to a final score of 353.
Scott Stewart claimed the Devon Grand Hunter Championship aboard A Million Reasons. The division's reserve championship went to Kelley Farmer and Baltimore.
Stewart and Dr. Betsee Parker's A Million Reasons earned the championship in the High Performance Working Hunter division, racking up a total of four blue and one red ribbons. The High Performance reserve championship went to El Primero and Louise Serio, who was also crowned Leading Lady Rider.
In addition to the championships, Stewart accumulated enough points to earn the Leading Hunter Rider award for the eleventh time, while A Million Reasons also took home the Leading Mare Award.
Another one of Dr. Parker's talented hunters, Cold Harbor, took home the championship in the Regular Conformation Hunter division with rider Hunt Tosh in the irons.
Susan Sisco, Aiken, SC, has won the Ladies Side Saddle championship tricolor many times at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. This year, the victory was aboard an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Ringfort Tinkaturk, who is new to the side saddle division.
"He does a little bit of everything," owner Barbara Wanamaker said. "I've only had him since April. He was an event horse. It's only his third horse show and second sidesaddle show. Susan trains him."
For the second year in a row, Richard Taylor and Arbor Hill, owned by Kenneth Wheeler, took home the Kenneth Wheeler Perpetual Trophy for Best Young Horse.
Taylor and Arbor Hill (Redwine - Paisley), kicked off the day by winning the Three-Year-Old Other Than Thoroughbred Stallions & Geldings sections. They returned for the final championship, where they once again topped the leaderboard as the Best Young Horse after earning the title in 2015.
Carriage Pleasure Drive
The Unicorns and Four-in-Hands class was won by John White, who was also crowned the Drive-Off Champion. His Heavy Dog Cart carriage was pulled by four beautiful grey Kladruber horses. Betsy Demarino VMD, rode away with the victory in the Single-Harness Four-Wheel class. Demarino sported a circa 1860 English Ralli Cart by Moor & Sons. In the pony divisions, the Single-Harness Two- and Four-Wheel classes were won by Nicole Cable and Katie Kashner, respectively.
In the Double-Harness Pairs-Tandems class. Mary Stokes Waller rode away triumphantly in her Spider Phaeton carriage with Welsh pony brothers pulling the vehicle.