Aachen, Germany – McLain Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Contagious took their first win of the week at CHIO Aachen and one of the first individual victories at the iconic venue for Ward, besting a class of 56 entries for a competitive win. The duo stopped the timers as the third fastest combination in the first round and ultimately secured victory after finishing the second round in 41.41 seconds. Martin Fuchs (SUI) took third aboard Conner Jei, while Conor Swail (IRE) and Count Me In rounded out the top three.
Ward and his Tokyo Olympics partner, Contagious, a 2009 Deutches Sportpferd gelding owned by Beechwood Stables LLC, have been a force so far in 2022, capturing multiple international wins both in the U.S. and abroad as they aim for team selection ahead of the 2022 FEI Jumping World Championships in Herning, Denmark in August.
“Contagious was fantastic. This is a class that everyone in the sport dreams of winning and for us, Aachen is the biggest competition in the world, and the one that means the most to the rider. The Rolex Grand Prix, the Nations Cup, and the Prize of Europe are the main events here and it’s very important and such an honor to win one of those classes,” said Ward.
The class saw many of the top combinations in the world contest the two-round 1.60m track designed by Frank Rothenberg (GER) and set on the pristine grass in the main stadium at Aachen. Ward and Contagious precisely navigated the flowing, but massive track to punch their ticket to the second round as the third fastest trip. The top 14 combinations moved forward to contest the second round, which featured nine jumping efforts. The duo then returned and proved unbeatable after managing several efficient approaches and maximizing the stride of Contagious on the open gallops towards the finish.
Of his mount, Ward praised the consistency of Contagious, who has grown tremendously both in confidence and experience since last summer but always brings his heart and fight for Ward in every round.
“He’s grown into an incredible horse. He was always been a good horse and a trier. We thought he would be a good Grand Prix horse because he has a huge heart, but he’s really done some great things in the sport and has had a lot of great moments but has a lot of great moments left in him too,” said Ward. “When he goes in the ring, he builds himself up and he believes in me, I think. He throws his heart over first and he’s really done remarkable things, not things I imagined we would at the beginning of our partnership, but it’s because he believes in what we do and gives his all every time we enter the ring.”
Spencer Smith (Wellington, Fla.) and Untouchable 32, a 2013 Hanoverian mare owned by Aquilo Investments LLC also qualified through to the second round of the competition in the top 15 and finished 13th overall in the class. Competition continues tomorrow with the second round of the Sparkassen-Youngsters Cup, the STAWAG Prize, the team final of the FEI Youth Equestrian Games, and the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup beginning at 7:30 p.m. GMT+2.
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