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All hail Annie!

Monday, 13 March 2023
CSI5* The Dutch Masters 2023

This is for you Annie! 

"This mare is something from a dream,” Mclain Ward said after his incredible 17-year-old HH Azur took her second consecutive Major victory in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping-series within a time-frame of three months. 

After his victories in Geneva and 's-Hertogenbosch, Ward is now one win away from the sought-after Grand Slam-title and trophy. Only one rider has managed to win the Grand Slam-title before; Scott Brash in 2015. Now Ward has the chance to write history too as he continues to CHIO Aachen as the Live Contender. 

Here, we look back at Mclain and Annie's incredible achievements at The Dutch Masters, and an unforgettable day for the whole team at Castle Hill Farm. 

All photos © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "Personally I would love to take Azur to Aachen as the next step and then hopefully on to Calgary, but as I said in Geneva, we’re going to leave here, we’re going to assess how she is – she is 17 years old now and I take nothing for granted, I’m always grateful for every great competition she gives me," Ward said.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Flying over the first fence in round one...

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ ...full focus...

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ ...and earning some extra air-miles.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Can you make it tighter? From this oxer, the fourth in the jump-off, Mclain Ward started to close in on Julien Epaillard's time to beat.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Full speed towards the Rolex upright.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Hold on, we're going home... The roll-back to the penultimate Audi upright certainly required some proper footwear.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “The last fence has been a bit of an issue in the last Grand Prixs; at Geneva I got away with it, in Aachen I didn’t, but the nine strides was a little bit more reasonable so I thought I could get there and stay on it and she turned herself inside out. It was on the right side today for me," Ward said about his ride down the final line to this oxer.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “I’m always optimistic, I would not have come all this way if I did not think we had a chance,” Ward said about arriving at The Dutch Masters as Live Contender.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Taking an extra look at his time: 0.20 seconds quicker than Epaillard.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Gratitude.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ That sums it up!

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “We have the best team," Mclain Ward said, here with Lee McKeever who has been working alongside the American ace for 34 years.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Annie and her groom Virginie Casterman.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Lots of attention for the winning team.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ And lots of appreciation for Annie!

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ All smiles!

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I try to be honest with myself; does she feel good enough to keep asking this test at this age? And obviously she keeps answering with a resounding yes, but she has a pretty light jumping schedule and very light show schedule," Ward said after Annie's second Major victory.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Thumbs up, everywhere...

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ ....

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Taking the time to celebrate with the fantastic crowd in Brabanthallen, that contributed to amazing atmosphere!

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Another show, another Rolex!

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Taking it all in! "Nerves and pressure to do well is always something that weighs on me, but to be successful at something where you have to perform you have to learn to channel that energy,” Ward said after his second consecutive Major victory.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ With Annie's co-owner François Mathy and groom Virginie Casterman.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Congrats to everyone at Castle Hill, to Mclain and of course to the inimitable Annie!

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