Achat 6 and McLain Ward may have to retire before another horse and rider win the Puissance high jumping competition at the Washington International Horse Show.
The pair cleared 6 feet 9 inches to win the $25,000 Puissance title at MCI Center last night, their third straight victory in the event. Their three attempts at a world record height of 7-9 failed.
"The horse was jumping well, but everything has to go right [for a record]. It's trying to do the impossible a little bit," said Ward, of Brewster, N.Y. "To even leave the ground is spectacular."
Achat 6 and Ward, who won the top prize of $8,000, bested a field of six other horses and riders, all of which cleared the preliminary height of 5 feet 9 inches.
The field was a solid one with Margie Engle, a three-time winner, and Aaron Vale, twice a champion in the event, competing.
Ward has been trying to match the efforts of his father, a four-time winner and two-time record holder in the Puissance. This victory was Ward's fourth as well, but he was quick to credit his horse.
"It's an amazing horse, it's a testament to him that he's winning this class, and that he continues to make a valid attempt to jump that fence," Ward said.
Ward got some gasps from the crowd in the second of his three rounds, when he clipped the optional jump leading up to a mandatory fence and the Puissance wall.
"The first round is the most nerve-wracking, because he's a brave horse more than a careful one," Ward said. "You'd actually like it to go down, have a little touch on it and have a very relaxed jump. All that matters is the wall at that point."
Ocelot and Karen Cudmore, a Canadian native, gave Ward and Achat 6 a challenge by easily clearing 6-4. But the 7-year-old Holsteiner Stallion, Ocelot, the youngest horse in the field, clipped the wall on the way down at 6-9. Aguila and Jimmy Torano of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., finished in a tie for second place with Ocelot and Cudmore.
Engle, who finished second a year ago, retired Hidden Creek's Jones after one round, saving her horse for tonight's $100,000 President's Cup event, the premier competition of the horse show. The top 20 from riders from Thursday's qualifier will compete this evening.
Vale, aboard Innovator, faulted on the final wall in the second round.
In the $25,000 Open Jumper, three horses finished faster that Diams III, but no other jumper completed the course without a mistake. The Selle Francais horse, ridden by Joe Fargis, was the only horse to jump the course clean, beating a group of eight horses with four faults. Diams III finished in an error-free 50.25 seconds.