Edited Press Release
On Wednesday, McLain Ward was still delighted that after 27 years he had finally claimed the golden ribbon in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe. Friday, he added a further victory to the list in the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia together with his partner in success, Contagious.
It was fantastic to watch how the US American rider, McLain Ward and his 13-year-old Zweibrücker gelding, Contagious by Contagio sped through the course in the jump-off of the RWE Prize of North-Rhine Westphalia as the last pair to go. Even in the tight turns they managed to find the perfect take-off at the obstacles and crossed the finish line in an incredible 41.70 seconds to take the victory. Ward’s recipe for success? “I know the exact numbers of my strides and I know my horse inside out.”
Up until then, Steve Guerdat (SUI) and his eleven-year-old Swedish-bred team European Champion, Albführen’s Maddox, had been in the lead on a time of 42.38 seconds after an impressive round in which both horse and rider went flat out. Guerdat reported later that this was the first big class for the gelding after a two-month break and Maddox had been slightly nervous. “I had to fight a little bit, but he fought with me. It was a real pleasure for me today!” I could perhaps have done one stride less at the third jump, but it wouldn’t have changed anything. We had a bit of bad luck today because we had to compete against McLain and he is the guy to beat in such classes. I was happy with my ride and horse.“
Jur Vrieling from the Netherlands came third with the eleven-year-old Plot Blue son, Fiumicino van de Kalevallai, with a clear round in 42.79 seconds. The pair have already been together for a long time, but Vrieling said, “coming under the top three in a class of this magnitude is one of his best achievements to-date.” In view of the fact that 16 of the in total 54 competitors reached the jump-off, the team World Champion of 2014 said: “The fences were high and wide, there was a water jump and both Liverpools. The course contained all possible challenges. I didn’t expect there to be so many clear rounds. But that shows the quality of the horses and riders here.” His two colleagues confirmed this too. And Ward added: “The number of clear rounds shows how focused the horses and riders are here and above all the quality of the ground. The footing is excellent.”
In spite of the fact that Contagious won both the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europa and the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ward will be saddling a different horse for the Grand Prix on Sunday: His long-time, top partner, HH Azur. “She is like an old friend. We know what to do. We will just try to focus and do our best on the day.”
Not only the athletes enjoyed themselves on this sunny Friday afternoon. The newly re-elected Minister President Hendrik Wüst (CDU) was also impressed by the ambience and atmosphere: “Once a year the world of equestrian sport meets in Aachen – the CHIO is the flagship of the sporting state of NRW with international appeal and a world-class sporting event,” said the Minister President.
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