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Mclain Ward and Contagious fly to the win in style in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen

Wednesday, 29 June 2022
CHIO Aachen 2022

Photo © MacKenzie Clark Mclain Ward and Contagious won the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.


Text © World of Showjumping 



Mclain Ward (USA) and Contagious (Contagio x For Keeps) flew to the win in Wednesday’s 1.60m Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen with two picture-perfect rounds. 

“I remember for many years coming here, seeing the name of Steinkraus on the wall, thinking I want to get that one day – and 27 years later I finally got it,” Ward said after his victory. “Contagious was fantastic. I think this is a class that everyone in the sport dreams of winning, for us Aachen is the biggest competition in the world, the one that means the most to most of the riders. I think the Grand Prix, Nations Cup and the Prize of Europe are the traditional three big events, it’s very important to us, and this is a great honour.”

The world ranking class worth 200,000 Euro, also a qualifier for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, had 56 horse-and-rider combinations in it and 25% – 14 pairs – would qualify for the second round under the floodlights. However, with no less than 27 going clear, a fast performance was also needed. For those coming in towards the end of the competition this meant speeding up in order to make it, and as the class progressed the riders took more and more risk – still keeping the poles up over Frank Rothenberger’s (GER) fourteen-fence track. 

The two first out in the second round, Spencer Smith (USA) and Kevin Staut (FRA), were unable to repeat their clears from round one, but as third in the main ring at Soers, world no. five Conor Swail (IRL) kept a clean sheet aboard Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) – setting the time to beat at 44.29 seconds. 

Photo © MacKenzie Clark. Second placed Martin Fuchs and Conner Jei. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.

As next to go, Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) and Oak Grove’s Enkidu (Ensor vdh Pleville x Quidam de Revel) also jumped clear but with a time of 47.14, settled in behind Swail. After a lot of risk and eight faults from Tobias Meyer (GER) and Greatest Boy H (Carrera VDL x Great Pleasure), world no. one Martin Fuchs (SUI) entered the ring on Conner Jei (Connor 48 x Cosimo) – going all in, with an incredible speed on the last line to the final Turkish Airlines upright, stopping the clock at 41.48 to take over the lead. 

It looked like it would be hard to beat Fuchs, and those to follow could not match his time. Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Great-Tikila J (Carosso VDL x Nabab de Reve) posted a clear, but were too far behind on the clock with their 45.40 seconds, and Max Kühner (AUT) and Elektric Blue P (Eldorado v Zeshoek x For Pleasure) – last year’s winners of this class – could also not catch the world no. one, finishing in 45.03 seconds. 

While Nayel Nassar (EGY) had to see the b-element of the combination fall, and Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) had the penultimate Rolex plank down, a clear round from Megane Moissonnier (FRA) and Bracadabra (Pacific Des Essarts x Couleur Rubin) in 44.92 placed them behind Fuchs and Swail. 

With only three to go, it was time for Mclain Ward and the 13-year-old gelding Contagious – the American rider’s partner from the Tokyo Olympics. After the most stylish performance in round one, the two did not disappoint and cruised around the shortened track to stop the clock at 41.41 seconds – snatching the lead from Fuchs. The last two pairs in the ring could not catch Ward; Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and F One USA (Toulon x Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve) had the penultimate plank down, while Daniel Deusser (GER) and Bingo Ste Hermelle (Number One d'Iso x Diamant de Semilly) risked it all for the fastest time of the class but on the expense of the a-element of combination down – leaving the win with Ward, ahead of Fuchs in second and Swail in third. 

Photo © MacKenzie Clark. The third place went to Conor Swail and Count Me In. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.

“Contagious has grown into an incredible horse, he was always a very careful horse and a trier,” Ward said. “He has a huge heart, and the rider is also a bit of a fighter and a trier," he laughed. "He has done some great things in the sport and I think we have a lot of great things left, I am very appreciative of having him.”

“He has a lot quirks,” Ward told of Contagious. “He is a little bit afraid of everything and quite sharp in the schooling area with the other horses, and you have to manage that a little bit. But when he goes into the ring, he fills himself up and he believes in me, I think. He throws his heart over first.”

“He is going to jump the big qualifier on Friday; the 1.60," Ward said of the plan for Contagious at CHIO Aachen. "He is a horse we are aiming towards the World Championships. I am lucky enough to have a few horses that can jump on that level, so for this week the Grand Prix is not the aim with him.”

Fuchs was beaten, but not too disappointed, and said: “First I was upset that it was so tight, but now I am really happy that I had such a great jump-off, I could not have done anything else and everything went according to my plan. I keep referring to Mclain as the best jump-off rider in the world and today he showed it again, why I call him that."

“It has been a great start for me, obviously," third-placed Swail, who also won the Prize of StädteRegion Aachen earlier in the afternoon, said. "This is one of the best shows in the world, if not the best. My two horses have been great at Spruce Meadows and there is a five-star there this week, but so far it looks like I made a good decision in coming here."

Photo © MacKenzie Clark. Mclain Ward and Contagious flying to the win in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.

“[The Grand Prix of] Aachen is like the girl I can never get,” Ward laughed when talking about what is coming later on in the week. “It is a moment I have dreamt of since I was a small child. I try not to think about it, Contagious is not going to do the Grand Prix this week because, you know, I put my team and the World Championship at the front and I am going to do what is right in building up towards the championship for him [Contagius]. I have two other great horses here and one of them is going to do the Grand Prix. We try to do our best every day, I try to be in the hunt – I love being in the fight here. I have a few years left, so maybe one of these days I can get it.” 

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