Leipzig, Germany – April 08, 2022 – A precisely executed first round and jump-off in Round II pushed McLain Ward (USA) and Contagious to the top of the overall standings of the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final, as all eyes turn to the final round of competition on Sunday, April 10. Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Contagious went late in the order given their fifth-place finish in yesterday’s speed round, capitalizing on their opportunity to move up the standings. All eight U.S. combinations will move on to compete in the Final on Sunday.
The pair finished their first tour of the track in 68.07 seconds, navigating the challenging course of Frank Rothenberger (GER), which saw an increase in difficulty from yesterday’s opening class. Ward and Contagious, a 2007 German Sport Horse gelding owned by Beechwood Stables LLC, then returned for the seven-horse jump-off round, where they went last in the order. The jump-off was moderately paced, and Ward made quick, efficient work of their round without burning too much energy ahead of Sunday’s Final.
Aaron Vale (Williston, Fla.) and Elusive, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Thinks Like a Horse LLC, are the next highest placed U.S. combination after Ward, adding just a single rail to their time of 68.40 seconds in today’s class. The pair finished 12th overall in Round II and will move forward to the Final Round in 17th place.
Katie Dinan (Wellington, Fla.) and Brego R’N B impressed in their return to the arena today, finishing with just a single time fault to earn them an eighth-place finish in Round II.
“Our game plan was to try to do just enough to not take too much out of the horse for Sunday, but also not risk having a fence down. He’s a quick horse naturally, so one to two was quick, and I tried to slow in the middle, and I wanted to stay smooth to the last fence, so I was surprised with the time difference, but he’s just a really quick horse,” explained Ward.
Contagious has proven to be one of Ward’s most consistent mounts over the past few years, which is a testament the care and management of Ward’s team, and to the fighter mentality he brings to the ring.
“He’s an incredible trier because when we first got him, I would say he was a very careful and nice-level Grand Prix horse and truthfully, I didn’t think of him as a championship horse, but he kept developing and building scope,” said McLain of Contagious. “He performed brilliantly last summer at the Olympics, and he’s been just a different horse since then, bigger and stronger.”
Of his nineteenth FEI World Cup Final appearance, Ward noted that he’s been in this position before the final class and has seen both sides of the coin, from winning his first FEI World Cup Final in 2017 with HH Azur, to falling short with Vicktor to finish fourth in 2002 in Leipzig.
“You take your experiences and use them to help you focus and keep your head right. You need to do your job and the horse needs to be in form, and you need a little bit of fortune to win these championships,” said McLain. “It’s a challenge, but my team will do a great job, and I’m proud of my horse no matter what because he’s performed beautifully and we’ll do our best.”
The third and final round of the 2022 FEI Jumping World Cup Final will begin at 2:45 p.m. GMT+2/8:45 a.m. EST. on Sunday, April 10. The top 30 combinations from the competition will return to contest the final round.
Final Results – €150,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final II CSI 5* – W
1) McLain Ward (USA) & Contagious – 0 / 0 – 44.03
2) Harry Charles (GBR) & Romeo 88 – 0 / 0 – 47.14
3) Jack Whitaker (GBR) & Equine America Valmy de la Lande – 0 / 0 – 48.66
Source: Press Release from US Equestrian
Photo: © US Equestrian