Twenty-two hundredths of a second. That was all separating teacher and student through one round Thursday night at the Dixon Oval.
But by jump-off’s end at the Devon Horse Show, McLain Ward had reminded Adrienne Sternlicht that even for one of the rising stars in the world of jumping, there is still plenty to learn.
With a blazing jump-off time of 36.91 seconds, Ward comfortably cruised to his record 10th title in the Sapphire Grand Prix aboard Clinta, taking home $62, 500 and the Perpetual Trophy — his second consecutive win at Devon’s premier competition. The top-ranked American rider was one of five to advance past the opening round with a clean ride, and Ward was one of two riders to complete the jump-off without a fault.
“Even on a rainy night, how can you beat the atmosphere?” Ward said. “I’ve always said this is a very special place, it’s an iconic location, and a crowd that’s second-to-none. I don’t think there’s an atmosphere in the world that’s better.”
Sternlicht, 25, came up just short of her first Grand Prix victory at Devon, finishing the jump-off mistake-free but nearly 3 1/2 seconds slower than Ward. She and her mount, Cristalline, wound up second and collected $50, 000 in prize money.
Still, it was a major accomplishment for the young rider based in Connecticut. Sternlicht picked up her first Grand Prix victory just a few weeks back in Kentucky after taking a break from the sport last year.
“So far, I’ve been blessed to have an amazing 2018,” Sternlicht said. “I knew that if I just tried to put my head down and stick to my riding and focus on what was ahead of me, anything with my horse is possible.”
And Ward effusively praised his young protege.
“I don’t always help a lot of people,” Ward said. “But the ones that I do and to see what Adrienne’s doing … that makes me very proud.”
For Ward, though, his dominance in Devon has stretched across nearly two decades.
After first winning in 1999, Ward has four victories in the last seven editions of the Sapphire Grand Prix — named in memory of the mount that carried him to wins in 2007 and 2009. In the history of the event, no rider has ever won more than three times.
But the two-time Olympic gold medalist was quick to avoid taking any credit for himself after making history again.
“It wasn’t so well done on my part and that’s what I always say,” Ward quipped. “The horse saved me. … [Clinta] did an incredible job.”