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Ward Wins First Round of Longines Final by a Whisker

By on March 31, 2017

McLain Ward and HH Azur. (Liz Gregg/FEI)

McLain Ward’s victory with HH Azur in the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017 Final was so smooth that defending double-champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, showered his American opponent with praise. The double-Olympic team gold medallist, who posted the quickest time in 59.27 seconds, explained the course didn’t leave riders with a lot of options.

“It was big enough for the first night! In reality there was just a whisker between the top three. I was very fortunate.”

It was indeed a close-run affair as runner-up, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (35), may well have overtaken him but for a small error between the second and third fences which saw him stop the clock on 59.58. “It should have been seven strides there but I did it in eight, and that was the whisker I think!” he said.

“I’m one of McLain’s biggest fans. On the circuit in Florida I like watching him any time,” the 2012 Olympic champion Guerdat said, after finishing third with a thrilling ride on the fiery mare, Bianca. With this result turned into points, Ward has only a two-point advantage over von Eckermann going into the second competition, while Guerdat is only a single point further adrift.

There’s €1,300,000 in prizemoney and the glory of taking the coveted Longines title to be sorted out by Sunday afternoon.

FULL RESULTS can be viewed here.

McLain Ward USA (1st): “We’re very lucky to have Santi (Santiago Varela ESP) and Alan (Wade IRL) the two very best course designers here. They put the test in front of you and they’re not afraid to put up big fences but they make subtle problems that always have a solution. Nothing tricky, Alan’s track always rides smoothly if you solve the test.”

Henrik von Eckermann SWE (2nd): “My horse is quite green. I started riding her in September when I started running my own yard and she’d only been jumping 1.45m before.”

Steve Guerdat SUI (3rd): “I’m happy with my position and the way my horse jumped. She felt very good but I think we have the right winner. I’m happy for McLain today. We knew he would be the man to beat this week and I hope we have a good fight to the finish!”

By Louise Parkes

Press contacts:

At FEI:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations & Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

At Omaha:

Marty Bauman
marty@classic-communications.com
+1 508-698-6810

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