CHIO Aachen: Rolex Rider Watch
USA's McLain Ward wins the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia
The second Rolex Grand Prix qualifier of the week, the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia, was won by USA’s McLain Ward in speedy fashion, finishing at the top of the leaderboard in 46.95 secs, shaving nearly two seconds off his closest rival, Kevin Staut, who took second place. McLain paid tribute to his stunning 11-year-old mare, Clinta, following his victory:
Can you tell us about Clinta?
I purchased her in February this year, I actually tried her for the first time right after Aachen last year. She performed really well here, and we were very impressed by her. We started competing together in Florida, in March, and felt fantastic right from the beginning, she won the first 5* Grand Prix in New York and the 4* in Devon, so we have certainly had a great start together. We are so excited for her career, she is a really spectacular jumper, she is as careful as any horse ever been and I think we are going to have a bright future.
Who will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I will be riding HH Azur in the Rolex Grand Prix, Clinta will ride the big class tomorrow and that will be her last for the week.
I am so lucky to have two such amazing horses here, they are both brilliant. They are slightly different in character – Azur has an ease and a blood, an athleticism about her, you can see it in the way she stands, Clinta is a bit quicker, moves a bit faster and her jump is a little more dynamic. The similarity between the two, is they have that wonderful quality of giving everything they have to you.
Do you feel extra pressure competing at one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I have extra pressure on myself as it’s the last big Grand Prix of the world I haven’t won, and I would like to get my name on that wall before I retire. So that’s my drive, I want to win here for sure, so we will do our best, hopefully have some good fortune and we will be in for a chance on Sunday evening.
Exclusive Interview With:
Israel's Daniel Bluman, ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix
How’s your experience of Aachen so far this weekend?
It’s been really good, it’s an unbelievable place to be at. Already from the get go, with the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe on Wednesday which is a qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix, (Ladriano Z) jumped really well, she finished in the rankings, so it gives me a nice chance to qualify for the Grand Prix on Sunday, so the week has been fantastic so far.
Which horses do you have here this weekend? And in particular for the Rolex Grand Prix?
This week, Bacara and Ladriano for the Grand Prix, Ladriano is a horse made for this kind of event, I normally ride him in the Grand Prix, that is usually how his schedule works. He started in Florida and won a 5* at the beginning of the year, recently I’ve been letting him lay low, he jumped in Calgary in preparation for this and he has been jumping here this week in preparation for the Grand Prix this weekend and then we will go to the Rolex Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows and hopefully the World Equestrian Games and then at the end of the year we will go to CHI Geneva.
So you have your eyes on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping then?
Yes, it means a lot to me, I really love the concept and I have always been a big fan of Rolex and what they do for our sport and I really try to aim for the big competitions. It’s really good that Rolex are coming into big shows, I was supposed to be at Windsor with another horse but unfortunately there was a minor injury so I couldn’t make the flight but there is Windsor, Rome, Spruce Meadows, Wellington which are all Rolex. It is a prestigious brand, with prestigious events, I want to be part of this, they are shows that are always in my calendar and that I really aim for.
Who do you think your biggest competition on Sunday is?
That’s pretty much an impossible question right now as the level of riders in the world is incredible, you have Eric Lamaze, who is first of all one of my mentors and an idol, he is strong, he has been really good in the last few months. But then again, you have Steve Guerdat who is fantastic, you have Philip Weishaupt and the rest of the German crew who are doing great, Marcus Ehning etc. the list goes on. There are so many people with unbelievable talent, it will be a tough competition and I think anyone can take it.
It’s quite a family affair for you, could you tell us a bit about having that family support network?
Yes, it means a lot. It is our first-generation equestrian family, our parents didn’t ride but with my cousins Elan and Marky and my brother Stephen, we have established an equestrian business, in America with clients and in Europe with all the operations of the young horses, breeding and everything else. It is really a great thing to be able to have because it allows me to be able to do the sport the way I dream of doing it and at the same time to be able to spend it with my wife, my brother and my cousins. It really makes the whole experience so much better.
You’re going to become a father in October, have you got hopes for the new arrival to follow in your footsteps?
I think about that a lot, we are very excited for our little son to be born in October! Most importantly I will try to teach him the love and passion for the horses as animals, if he catches that from his mother or from me, there is a big chance he will end up being a rider. The best approach will be to communicate to him what the horses mean to us and the life around the horses, perhaps then he will get into it and be here one day jumping with us.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s groom, Anu Harrila
You’ve worked with Meredith for a very long time, what are your favourite parts of the job?
My favourite part of the job is working with the horses. I have worked with a lot of horses over the last 20 years and there are always a few that stick with you and have a special place in your heart. I am so lucky to work with such amazing horses, so that’s definitely the best part. Meredith is lovely work for, I know her inside out now, so it works seamlessly, and I think we are a great team.
Meredith has won here in the past; do you think she can win this weekend?
Well that would be the dream come true, we have a really nice nine-year-old, he’s still a little green, but he is going well so we are going to give it our best shot!
Which horses do you have competing here this year?
We have a nine-year-old called Calle, he is a really good young horse, I hope he will do great this week. He’s a special guy, he doesn’t like to be alone, he always has to have a friend. He is sensitive to loud noises, so you always have to make sure he knows that it’s ok. We also have an eight-year-old mare, that she has only had for 8-10 weeks, so we don’t know her that well, but she is very promising and seems like a very sweet horse.
As a team, do you feel extra pressure when competing at one of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
There is always pressure when it is a Rolex Grand Slam Major because obviously you want to do well. Here now in Aachen, it’s Germany, it’s home crowd and a lot of prize money at stake.
What’s the routine for the horses once they have finished competing?
Normally, they have a shower then they have ice boots on to cool down the legs and keep them fresh. Most of them have either a massage blanket or a magnetic blanket. They have a good brush and maybe a walk to keep them moving. Maybe some bandages if they like those.
If you weren’t a groom, what would you be?
I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine doing anything else, I guess I have my dream job.
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special show for you?
There is a super atmosphere, everything is very well organised. The crowd is unbelievable, when somebody goes clear they cheers are so loud, it gives you goosebumps! I think it is one of the best shows in the world.