McLain Ward wins the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe
McLain Ward didn’t need an airplane today to fly to victory in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe. He had Contagious. And the pair left first and foremost the number one in the world rankings trailing behind them in the first major jumping class at the CHIO Aachen 2022.
When the number one in the world ranking list, the Swiss show-jumper Martin Fuchs reached the finish line in the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe with his eleven-year-old Holstein-bred gelding, Conner Jei by Connor in a time of 41.48 seconds, one actually had the feeling that it wasn’t possible to ride faster. But then came McLain Ward (USA) and Contagious, the two team silver medallists from Tokyo. He had so often come second or third in the major classes at Aachen, said Ward. And today he wanted to give it his best shot. And with his Baden-Württemberg-bred Contagio-son he had saddled the right partner – “incredibly careful with a huge heart”, is how Ward describes him. And Contagious galloped as fast as he could and actually managed to knock seven hundredths of a second of Conner Jei’s time. Which was something very special for Ward:
“I remember that I have come here for many years and saw how one of my mentors won the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe and I always thought one day I will win it too. And now, 27 years later, the time has finally come. Contagious was simply fantastic. I think it is a class that each of us dreams of winning one day. You know, Aachen is the best show in the world for us, which means the most to us riders, and the Grand Prix, the Nations Cup and the Prize of Europe are the competitions with the longest tradition, the main events. Which is why it is very important for us and a big honour for me.”
Of course, Martin Fuchs would have like to have swapped places with Ward: “Of course, I was a bit annoyed at first, because it was so close. But now I am really happy! I had a super jump-off; I couldn’t have done anything more and everything went exactly according to plan. But McLain is simply the best jump-off rider in the world and he proved again today why that is what I call him.”
An unforgettable first “real” show day in Aachen came to an end for Conor Swail this evening, after already winning the Prize of StädteRegion Aachen this afternoon. It is the Irish rider’s debut in Aachen this and as he already said this afternoon, he travelled here specially from Spruce Meadows. This time he had saddled his top horse, Count Me In. The pair have notched up many victories over the past months. A top horse that jumped clear in a time of 44.92 seconds to finish third today. “So far, it has been a good decision to come here.” That’s definitely goes without saying – and the week has only just begun…
There was a special surprise for the winner: A CHIO Aachen NFT that resembles his Contagious. Further information on the NFTs and the CHIO Aachen Metaverse can be found online.
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