May 2017 - Flawless Final
Written by by Dana Rossmeier, US Equestrian Communications Department • photos: Terri Miller
Friday, 28 April 2017 23:23
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McLain Ward and HH Azur deliver five flawless rounds to capture Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final title.

by Dana Rossmeier, US Equestrian Communications Department • photos: Terri Miller

On his 17th attempt, McLain Ward with HH Azur won the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Final title on Sunday, April 2 in front of an electric home crowd in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center. The 2016 Rio Olympic team silver medalist combination jumped five consecutive clean rounds to secure the title that has eluded him his entire career.

Californians Jamie Barge & Luebbo have a terrific World Cup Final debut.

McLain Ward and his remarkable Olympic mount HH Azur en route to to their long sought World Cup win.

Switzerland’s Romain Duguet and Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann finished second and third, respectively. Seven additional U.S. combinations joined Ward, who all put forth great effort despite varying levels of experience.

“I’ve been a fighter, digger, and grinder my whole career. I try never to give up and try to keep working at it. The team works at it, and today’s just a culmination of a lot of people’s hard work,” said Ward.

A total of 26 combinations, including four U.S. combinations, advanced to Sunday’s Jumping Final where two rounds determined the champion. One rail separated the top three keeping the competition extremely tight.

Switzerland’s Romain Duguet went clear to remain on four penalties putting extra pressure on Ward for a clear round. Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet had one rail, which put him at seven penalty points, overall, giving Ward extra breathing room.

Resting on zero penalties heading into the first round of competition, the crowd watched in excitement and anticipation as Ward (Brewster, N.Y,) and Double H Farm & Francois Mathy’s 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare took on the course. Ward and HH Azur delivered a clean round to move to the second round still in the lead.

Henrik Von Eckerman & Mary Lou finished third for Sweden.

Defending champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland finished 8th with Bianca.

Charlie Jacobs (Boston, Mass.) with Cassinja S, CMJ Sporthorse LLC’s 2006 Zweibrücker mare, and Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) with Zeremonie, Old Willow Farms, LLC’s 2007 Holsteiner mare, joined Ward in the second round and ended with 20 and 23 penalties, respectively. After accumulating faults during each day of competition, Kraut ended on a high note with a clear round on Sunday.

“This was the first round where she actually felt like she normally does outside. She was loose and relaxed, listened to me, and was not so overwhelmed with the environment. She will come out of this with more mileage and experience, and I am looking forward to the future,” said Kraut.

Duguet continued to put the pressure on Ward, going clear in the second round to remain on four penalty points. Wathelet followed and dropped another rail giving him 11 total penalties. With no room for error, Ward and HH Azur remained focused and determined entering the arena. The dependable mare gave Ward everything she had to help Ward seal the victory.

“[Owners Hunter Harrison and François Mathy] are huge father figures in my life. I learned a tremendous amount from both of them. Much of who I am is because of these two men, and to have them both own, what I consider the best horse I ever sat on in my life, it’s emotional enough,” said Ward, following his double-clear performance on Friday.

(Editor’s Note: Contenders based on the West Coast did our region more than proud, but did not finish in the money. In her World Cup debut, Jamie Barge made it through to the second round, as did returnee Jenni McAllister. Audrey Coulter, Karl Cook and Nayel Nassar had rough first rounds and did not move on to the next. But Frenchman Eric Navet, an adopted West Coaster, carried the California flag nicely with Catypso going all four rounds and finishing an impressive 19th among 37 of the world’s best. We are proud of them all!)


California girl Jenni McAllister and LaEGIS Touch The Sun.

Young German rider Guido Klatte, Jr., made many friends during the West Coast World Cup qualifying season and rode to a terrific sixth place finish in Omaha with the high-flying Quingai.

Romain Duguet & Twenty Two des Biches were second for the Swiss.