McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur did it again in Omaha, and won Friday’s second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Final – holding on to their overall lead ahead of Sunday’s third and last leg.
Friday night’s course was more technical than on the opening day, as should be in a World Cup Final and the riders really needed a plan to get through without faults. Alan Wade (IRL) had designed a long track, with fourteen fences and seventeen efforts with a triple combination half-way. It was not only the fences that played a part in the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Final, also the time allowed created a challenge for the riders.
After the first seventeen riders, a clear round was yet to be produced. Four riders managed to leave the fences intact, but on the expense of a time fault: Keean White (CAN) with For Freedom Z (For Pleasure x Baloubet du Rouet), Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) with Ensor de Litrange LXII (Nabab de Reve x Mr Blue), Denis Lynch (IRL) with All Star (Argentinus x Alme) and Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with VDL Groep Verdi Tn N.O.P. (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I).
Going into the second half of the class, it was German maestro Marcus Ehning that delivered the first clear round. While all the previous riders had struggled with the time allowed, Ehning made it look simple to stay inside and had three seconds to play with when he crossed the finish line aboard Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy.
A few riders later it was Ehning’s compatriot Guido Klatte Jr. – only 21-years-old – that secured a jump-off when he posted a picture perfect clear on Qinghai (Quidam de Revel x Cordalme).
Shortly after, two Swiss riders joined the jump-off after clear rounds: Martin Fuchs with Clooney (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) and Romain Duguet with Twentytwo des Biches (Mylord Carthago x Kalor du Bocage).
After being in the top five yesterday, Leopold van Asten (NED) had a rather disappointing round with VDL Groep Zidane N.O.P. (Heartbreaker x Calando I) recording eight faults – both on verticals – pushing him down the ranks.
Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Forlap (Querlybet Hero x Heartbreaker), however, delivered again. After being fourth in the opening round, the pair jumped their second clear in two days and qualified for the jump-off as well.
Third in the opening round on Thursday, Steve Guerdat (SUI) and the flashy Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) saw the third last fence fall to keep them out of the jump-off. Four faults was also the result for Thursday’s runner-up Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) with Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland L), that also had a heart-stooping stumble after fence four but miraculously managed to clear the following fence.
As last to go all eyes were on home hero and leading rider McLain Ward (USA) on his amazing 11-year-old mare HH Azur (Thunder vd Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui vd Zuuthoeve ). The two had no problem living up to the expectations, jumping a beautiful clear round to make the crowds go wild in Omaha and all was set for a six-rider jump-off.
The German riders opened up against the clock, with both Marcus Ehning and Guido Klatte Jr. recording eight faults each. Martin Fuchs followed, and opted for a safe clear round in 44,01 seconds eventually putting him fourth.
As next to go, Romain Duguet took a lot more risk and the lead with his time of 40,46 seconds. However, it was not to last as Gregory Wathelet put Forlap in top gear cruising around in 39.39 seconds to go to the top of the leader board.
Last in the ring, McLain Ward and HH Azur had the chance to secure their second win in just as many days. The two did not only that, but made a demonstration of why there are regarded one of the very best horse-and-rider combinations in the world when sprinting around to the incredible time of 36.87 seconds – keeping the audience at the edge of their seats along the way. Crossing the finish line, the crowd at the CenturyLink Center exploded into a standing ovation for Ward and his wonderful HH Azur as they further strengthened their lead of the Longines FEI World Cup Final with three penalty points down to Gregory Wathelet and Forlap ahead of Sunday’s last round.
Text © World of Showjumping / Pictures © Haide Westring for World of Showjumping
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