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Inside The Dutch Masters: Mclain Ward and HH Azur keep the Rolex Grand Slam dream alive

Monday, 13 March 2023
CSI5* The Dutch Masters 2023

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock McLain Ward and HH Azur, winners of the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock.


Press release from the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping



The pinnacle class of The Dutch Masters came in the form of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The Brabanthallen’s knowledgeable crowd was full of anticipation, ahead of being treated to unparalleled levels of precision, bravery and athleticism from the world’s best show jumpers. 35 horse and rider combinations, including eight of the top 10, all battled to claim one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport, the Rolex Grand Prix.

First to master Louis Konickx’s expertly designed 17-obstacle course was the World No.1, Henrik von Eckermann, aboard his FEI World Championship gold medal-winning partner King Edward. Next into the arena, France’s Julien Epaillard, produced a faultless round to ensure a jump-off. Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs, current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender McLain Ward, and winner of the 2022 Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen Gerrit Nieberg also showed their class to join the elite group of riders going through to the second round. Meanwhile, the Dutch crowd came alive when the winner of the VDL Groep Prize on Friday evening, Willem Greve, rode an immaculate round of jumping.

With 16 riders, including the top four ranked riders in the world, making it through to the jump-off, fans were set for a true spectacle of speed and agility. Sweden’s Henrik van Eckermann laid down the gauntlet with a breathtakingly fast clear in the time of 38.52 seconds, however this lead was soon eclipsed by Julien Epaillard, who came home 0.46 seconds faster. Live Contender McLain Ward then stepped up the pace once again to keep chances his of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping alive. France’s Simon Delestre looked to take the win away from Ward finishing 0.09 seconds faster, but heartbreak came when the final Rolex oxer fell. This left Ward to take the victory and retain his title as Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

Speaking on his extraordinary win, McLain Ward said: “I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet, it was lot of stress having to watch the remaining 12 riders in the jump-off. The level here so high, and I think later tonight I will realise what we have achieved. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has truly raised the bar of the sport and winning a Major is one of the greatest moments in a riders career. I am so proud of my team and my horse – and a little proud of myself.”

Commenting on his horse, the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender said: “She is smarter than everybody else and is truly a queen. I think she understands what is happening and really rises to the moment. She loves her job and the partnership that we have created is truly so special. We will now aim her for CHIO Aachen to try and win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.”



Interview with Virginie Casterman and Lee McKeever



Behind the stable door: Joseph Stockdale's groom Charlotte Attwell

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Charlotte Attwell. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

Why is The Dutch Masters such a special show? 

The Dutch Masters is an extraordinary show. It is local to me, my stables are only thirty-five minutes away. This means that my friends, family and sponsors come to support me which makes the show extra special. 

How did it feel to win the Rolex Grand Prix here at The Dutch Masters in 2017?

Winning the Rolex Grand Prix here at The Dutch Masters in 2017 is one of my favourite memories, it was unfortunately not considered part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, as it was the year before The Dutch Masters became part of the initiative. As always with Rolex Grands Prix, it was an incredibly competitive class, and it was indescribable to win in front of the home crowd.

Tell us a little bit more about the horse that you won on here...

I was riding VDL Groep Zidane N.O.P., who is now retired. He is in a field close to my home, and still looks in great shape. I had a fantastic career with him and we won several Grands Prix, but the most special was here at The Dutch Masters. 

What are your goals and ambitions for 2023?

I am focusing on the FEI European Championships at the moment. I am also directing my energy on developing and training my younger horses; I have two ten-year-olds here with me at The Dutch Masters. They are both very talented, so I am very much looking forward to this upcoming season.



Rider interview with: Leopold van Asten, winner of the 2017 Rolex Grand Prix

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock Leopold van Asten. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock.

Tell us a little a bit about your journey to The Dutch Masters…

We have been in Holland for the past few weeks, competing at Kronenberg, and then training over here as well, so actually I had a very leisurely drive to The Dutch Masters as we were only an hour away. It was much nicer than having to drive from the United Kingdom. 

This is your first time at The Dutch Masters, how are you finding it, and how are the facilities for the horses?

The facilities for the horses are great, this is our first time here and I am really impressed. The show has made sure that the horses’ welfare is a priority and you can really see this in the stables and the arenas.  

Do you do a lot of driving, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long journeys?

During long drives, I like to sing, I’m not very good but it keeps me awake. Also having a great selection of snacks helps!

Can you tell us about the horses that you have brought with you and what their characters are like?

We have brought Equine America Cacharel, our best mare. She competed at the FEI World Championships in Herning and has done a lot of FEI Nations Cup™ competitions. We love her, and she has the best character. She is totally spoilt and loves her treats.

The second horse that we have brought with us is Equine America Bingo de Chateau.



About the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping



The Rolex Grand Slam is considered by the sport to be the ultimate equestrian challenge, primarily due to the sporting prowess required to achieve this feat. It is a quest taken on by the world’s top riders, vying to secure the legendary status associated with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

The format of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is simple: anyone who wins three Majors in a row receives the Rolex Grand Slam trophy and a €1 million bonus on top of the class’s classes’ prize-money. If that same rider then continues their success by winning a fourth Major in succession, they will be rewarded with an additional €1 million bonus. If two shows are won in succession, the bonus is €500,000 or if an athlete wins two majors in a period of four successive shows, the bonus is €250,000.

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