McLain Ward Awarded Whitney Stone Cup by USET Foundation

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Whitney Stone Cup winner McLain Ward riding Sapphire to 2008 Olympic team gold. © 2008 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Whitney Stone Cup winner McLain Ward riding Sapphire to 2008 Olympic team gold. © 2008 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

GLADSTONE, New Jersey, Nov. 30–McLain Ward, double Olympic gold medalist, has been awarded the Whitney Stone Cup by the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation as an active competitor who displays “consistent excellence in international competition, high standards of sportsmanlike conduct, while also serving as an ambassdor for the United States and equestrian sport.”

Awarded annually by the USET Foundation Executive Committee, the Cup is given in honor of the late Whitney Stone, who served as President and Chairman of the Board of the USET. Whitney Stone led the USET from 1953 to 1973. He was instrumental in the creation of a civilian team when the Army retired from competitive horse sports after 1948.

Jane F. Clark, USET Foundation President and CEO, said: “McLain is not only one of this country’s top equestrian athletes, but one of the best international competitors in our sport. His great talent and representation of this country make him a very deserving recipient of the USET Foundation’s prestigious Whitney Stone Cup.”

McLain Ward has been at the top of the sport for many years, including team gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics aboard Sapphire. In 2009, he entered another level of winning with the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock.

The pair started out the year with wins in the $150,000 CN CSIO Grand Prix, the $200,000 CN Grand Prix, and $400,000 FTI Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. On other horses, Ward won another four $25,000 grand prix events at WEF.

Ward and Sapphire continued on to the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas and put in five clear rounds to finish second in the championship. When they represented the United States in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup tour, they scored double clear rounds in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and in Aachen, Germany. Sapphire jumped clear in the Grand Prix of Aachen, one of the most prestigious classes in the world.

Sapphire and Ward returned to North America in the fall and took home two more huge wins in the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic Horse Show and the CN $1 Million Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada. Ward ranks his win in Calgary as the best individual finish of his career.

In all, Ward won 23 USEF Computer List classes in 2009. Sapphire won just under $1 million (€666,000), and Ward totaled just over $1.4 million (€933,000) in prize money this year.

“It’s a great honor,” Ward said. “It’s a very prestigious award at the highest level of the sport. It’s humbling when you read the list of equestrians that have won it. You’re a part of that select group for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, I owe this to having a great horse in Sapphire, the owners for all of my horses, and a great group of people behind me.”

Ward was also honored that the award recognizes those who are an ambassador for the sport. “When you represent the United States, you try and conduct yourself in a professional manner, win or lose,” he said. “You promote America at its best with our riding and our system and what made us successful.”

Previous Whitney Stone Cup Winners:
1980 – Michael Matz
1981 – James C. Wofford
1982 – Norman Dello Joio
1983 – Melanie Smith
1984 – Carole Grant
1985 – Joe Fargis
1986 – Conrad Homfeld
1987 – Katie Monahan Prudent
1988 – Bruce O. Davidson
1989 – Gregory A. Best
1990 – William Long
1991 – Hap Hansen
1992 – Lana DuPont Wright
1993 – Carol Lavell
1994 – J. Michael Plumb
1995 – Robert Dover
1996 – Anne Kursinski
1997 – Leslie Burr Howard
1998 – David O’Connor
1999 – Valerie Kanavy
2000 – Karen O’Connor
2001 – Tucker Johnson
2002 – Gunter Seidel
2003 – Peter Wylde
2004 – Debbie McDonald
2005 – Chris Kappler
2006 – Elizabeth (Beezie) Madden
2007 – Elizabeth (Beezie) Madden
2008 – Steffen Peters
2009 – McLain Ward