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Contagious and Ward in a class of their own in Friday's 1.60m RWE Prize of North-Rhine-Westphalia at CHIO Aachen

Friday, 01 July 2022
CHIO Aachen 2022

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ First they won the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe, then the RWE Prize of North-Rhine-Westphalia: Mclain Ward and Contagious have been in a class of their own at CHIO Aachen. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



USA's Mclain Ward and Contagious (Contagio x For Keeps) were once again in a class of their own at CHIO Aachen, and took their second big victory of the week when topping Friday's CSIO5* 1.60m RWE Prize of North-Rhine-Westphalia. 

The course set by Frank Rothenberger (GER) saw faults scattered all around the demanding 1.60m track. With the famous double of liverpools as fence number three, a white Swedish oxer at fence number seven followed by the open water at fence eight, as well as an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination at fence eleven, one question followed the other in this second qualifier for Sunday's Rolex Grand Prix. While the open water, the triple combination, as well as the Rolex upright at fence twelve followed by a rollback to a plank at fence thirteen, caused many problems, a total of fourteen horse-and-rider combinations out of the 54 participants managed to clear the first-round track and joined the deciding jump-off, where only seven pairs produced another clear.

“Always when you start to see things like the double of liverpools, it catches your attention. I think the amount of clear rounds over this size courses both Wednesday and today should not only speak of the quality of the horses and riders but how focused they are on these events and the quality of the ground too, the horses were jumping brilliant off the surface. I mean today to have a 1.60m plank as the first jump in the jump-off, really is no limit, and the horses are just answering the test,” Ward said after the class about the track.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Runners-up Steve Guerdat and Albführen's Maddox. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Stopping the clock on 42.95 seconds in the jump-off, Nicolas Delmotte (FRA) and Dallas Vegas Batilly (Cap Kennedy x l'Arc de Triomphe Bois Margot) posted the first double clear of the class to take the lead – but were pushed into runner-up position when Jur Vrieling (NED) and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei (Plot Blue x Nabab de Reve) crossed the finish line in 42.79. When Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Albführen's Maddox (Cohiba 1198 x Maraton) shaved fractions off the Dutch rider's time, it looked like the former world number one could celebrate a win at the Soers, but the last man out in the jump-off – USA's Mclain Ward – once again showed impeccable speed and style. As the only pair to go under the 42-second mark, Ward cruised around on the 13-year-old Contagious, stopping the clock on 41.70 and took home yet another big win in Aachen, while Guerdat had to settle for second, Vrieling for third, Delmotte for fourth and Christian Kukuk (GER) on Nice van'T Zorgvliet (Emerald x Heartbreaker) for the fifth place. 

“We’re going to stick to the plan, and I am going to use my long-time partner HH Azur on Sunday – she is also a horse that has always performed good here in Aachen,” Ward said after winning both Grand Prix qualifiers with Contagious. “Contagious we aimed at these two major competitions [Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe and RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia], and he obviously performed great.”

Runner-up Steve Guerdat was not at all disappointed to finish behind Ward today. “It was Maddox’s first big class after a long break of two months, and I just started with him last week at a small show in Italy to get him ready for here. This is the class I aimed him for this week, and I knew he was perhaps a little bit green going into this as he hasn’t jumped this kind of class in over two months and that’s why I had to fight a little bit, but he was really fighting with me and it was a real pleasure for me today,” Steve Guerdat said. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Third place went to Jur Vrieling and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I actually had exactly the jump-off that I planned,” Guerdat explained. “Afterwards I think I would maybe have done one stride less to the third jump, but it would not have changed anything so I am really happy and I have absolutely no regrets. I think once again Mclain was in a class of his own today, and there was really no luck – he was just better today. We know that he is the guy to watch in this kind of classes in the jump-offs and Grand Prixs; normally when you beat him you win the class and today I was actually pretty far away, but still I am very happy with my ride and my horse, there was not much more to do for me today.”

“It’s nice of Steve to say,” Ward replied with a smile. “I think I had an advantage going after, both Steve, and Martin the other day [in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe] – you certainly can see what the bar is. I knew the numbers a little bit; my horse can cover the ground pretty well, and I knew I could do the number of strides in this jump-off – it was very clear. The fourth jump showed up very good for me – the green oxer before the double – on a slice, I think I made up some time there,” the American ace detailed on his jump-off. 

“You are always trying to keep raising the level of you and your horse, and make the performances more consistent,” Ward said. “I never thought of him [Contagious] as an Olympic horse, and then we went to the Olympics last year and performed at that level beautifully. He came out of the Olympics a better horse, which sometimes isn’t the case, particularly with a horse you are not sure has the power and then the jump to do that – but he came out a more confident, bolder and stronger horse and since then he has really been on a pretty good roll. I think he is on really good form, we are aiming towards the World Championships and that’s one of the reasons we have planned this week like this for him and we’ll stick to our plan and hopefully be able to be on the team.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ The winners: Mclain Ward and Contagious. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It’s always nice to have a good week, it gives you confidence, it makes you take a breath, it makes you really focused,” Ward said looking towards the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen on Sunday. “HH Azur is a little older now, I know her very well – she is kind of my old friend. I don’t think Wednesday or today has much to do with what it’s going to be on Sunday, other than that I feel good about the way I am riding – and we will focus and do the best job we can on that day.”

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