• Catie Staszak

McLain Ward: Synonymous with the Devon Horse Show


McLain Ward and Rothchild at Devon. Photo by The Book, LLC


In 2015, the Grand Prix at the historic Devon Horse Show was renamed the “Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon” in honor of McLain Ward’s Hall of Fame mount, the late, great Sapphire.


Ward and Sapphire won the class on two separate occasions, in 2007 and 2009. But Ward’s record of winning in the prestigious Dixon Oval has continued long after Sapphire’s 2012 retirement and untimely passing in 2014.


In fact, Ward has won Devon’s feature event in five of the last eight years editions of the event—including the last three.


As he looks to make it four straight tonight—and is a heavy favorite, bringing forward his Olympic silver medal winning partner, Contagious—we examine Ward’s numbers at the Devon Horse Show:


Neither of Sapphire’s wins are included in this data, as both came when the Devon Open Jumper division was held at the national standard level. Instead, these numbers analyze his record at the international level, which includes 32 results between 2008 and 2019. In total, Ward has won Devon’s Grand Prix a record 11 times—a combination of international and national results.


But in 32 starts over the course of 11 years of international show jumping at Devon, Ward has averaged a remarkable 3 faults—and broken down by year, he has never averaged more than a rail. The year 2016 was his best when it came to scoring: On that occasion, he averaged just 2 faults across three horses and took two wins in as many starts with Tina la Boheme. At the time, Ward was streaking. His win in Devon’s $40,000 International Speed Stake was his eighth international victory in a row—something unheard of in a sport with such unpredictability.


"I never try to limit what is possible,” Ward said that night.


At Devon, the country’s second-oldest horse show and one of the boldest and most unique venues in the country, there seems to be no limit of possibility for Ward. In 2012, he averaged a finish position of four from five starts in international competition. That year, he brought just two mounts with him: Antares F, whom he’d ride in that year’s Olympic Games in London, and the great Rothchild, who would give Ward his first individual gold medal in the 2015 Pan American Games (2015). Antares F won the Grand Prix that year.


Rothchild would give Ward back-to-back Devon Grand Prix wins when he topped the class in 2013. But Ward would have to wait four years—his longest drought—to win again. The winning mount, though, remained the same. Rothchild’s 2017 victory was most meaningful, as he equaled Sapphire’s feat in the class. The fan-favorite gelding would retire the following year.


Clinta (2018) and HH Azur (2019) added to Ward’s list of Devon Grand Prix Champions, and Contagious boasts a strong chance to keep yet another streak alive when the class returns after a two-year hiatus due to the ongoing global pandemic.


Contagious made his Devon debut in 2019, averaging 4 faults and a finish position of 14 from two starts. But the chestnut is unquestionably a different horse from three years ago. Contagious has not come out since April’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals in Leipzig (GER), and you can bet he’ll be primed and ready for the occasion.


Follow Ward at Devon 2022 with Prixview’s fantasy games at Prixview.com/fantasy.