McLain Ward and HH Azur. (Cara Grimshaw/FEI)
That longed for Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping title is only one more competition away for America’s McLain Ward (41) who, for the second night in a row, rocketed to victory at the Centurylink Center in Omaha (USA) with the brilliant 11-year-old mare HH Azur.
“She’s an independent woman. I don’t think she needs me very much! I have to try to keep a handle on her, but she tries to give you everything she has, and she has a tremendous amount to give!”
The double Olympic gold medallist has wanted this title for a very long time and, at his 17th Final it is almost in his grasp. But with only a three-point advantage over runner-up Gregory Wathelet (36) from Belgium and just a fence separating him from third-placed Swiss rider Romain Duguet (36) going into Sunday’s decider, it’s far from done and dusted.
Wathelet won’t be a pushover, and is thrilled to have re-established his partnership with Forlap who he brought to top level before the gelding was sold. This is something of a #TwoHearts story. “He lost his confidence because he was passed around to several different riders, so it was a bit of a risk buying him back,” said the 2015 European silver medallist, who is clearly delighted the 12-year-old gelding is back home where he started, and relishing his job once again.
“The biggest challenge for me is to keep my head right,” admitted Ward. “It’s something I need to master, and I hope I can do that this weekend,” the man from Brewster, New York said.
FULL RESULTS can be viewed here.
McLain Ward USA – 1st: “In our sport there are three major events – the Olympic Games, World Championships and the World Cup Final – that we all very much want to win in our career: It’s a big deal!”
Gregory Wathelet BEL – 2nd (talking about his horse, Forlap): “I never expected him to get his confidence back so quickly but three weeks ago he started feeling good again. Today I decided to go a bit for the time; it’s always easier when you have a horse that fights for you. I knew McLain would be fast so I went quick but not crazy.”
Romain Duguet SUI – 3rd: “I’m very happy with TwentyTwo (his horse TwentyTwo des Biches). I have her since she was five years old; she’s never spectacular but she jumps clear rounds. It wasn’t my plan to ride her in the Final but my other horse was injured. TwentyTwo is only 10 but she proved she can be really good this week. We go day by day at this Final.”
By Louise Parkes
Media Relations & Communications Manager
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