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McLain Ward on high with Brits shut behind

  • The USA’s McLain Ward has won the second round competition at the FEI Jumping World Cup Final, with young British riders Harry Charles and Jack Whitaker joining him on the podium in second and third place respectively.

    All three British riders jumped clear inside the time to be among the seven through to the jump-off. It proved a testing jump-off course, with defending World Cup champion Steve Guerdat having two down as first to go on Victorio Des Frotards.

    Next in was John Whitaker, competing at his first Jumping World Cup Final in over 20 years riding Equine America Unick Du Francport. The 14-year-old Zandor son, whom John described as still “not having a lot of top level experience”,  jumped well but hit the penultimate fence, a green upright that proved the mostly costly on the course.

    Jack Whitaker’s ride, the sharp grey 13-year-old Equine America Valmy De La Lande, hasn’t yet rolled a pole here in Leipzig, and Jack said that he was “ecstatic” with his first round this afternoon: “He’s jumping his socks off. I have to keep moving him forward without making him too sharp, opening his stride without making him too fast.”

    The pair took it steady round the jump-off course and it paid off as they delivered the first clear round. This was swiftly matched by Harry Charles, who was best of Brits from round one on Stardust, but has switched to ride his Tokyo Olympics partner Romeo 88 in the second leg of the final. Harry put in a beautiful clear at a good pace to take the lead and put the pressure on the final two riders.

    “It wasn’t exactly the day I wanted yesterday,” said Harry, referring his pole down in round one with Stardust. “I’m happy to have made up for that today. Romeo was feeling very fresh and quite strong to be honest – he had a bit of a skip and a play between a few fences, but the feeling for me is so easy. It’s so nice to have him back and riding him at this level.”

    With the Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders also bringing down the penultimate upright on Monaco, it was only McLain Ward, who finished fifth in yesterday’s opening round, who could get ahead of the Brits. He pulled out the stops with his Olympic silver medallist Contagious to beat Harry’s time by just over 3secs, taking today’s win and also securing himself the lead spot going into Sunday’ final round.

    “I was able to see enough of the jump-off to see it wasn’t a fast course and Harrie’s fence down opened the door for me,” said McLain. “Contagious is a quick horse naturally, so we took the first few fences quite fast, we were a bit slower in middle, but then just stayed smooth to the last fence. He is a brilliant horse and an incredible trier.”

    All of Friday’s top three finishers ended up down the order today with four faults apiece. Friday’s winner, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs finished down the order in 16th after opting to ride The Sinner in the second round. He is expected to bring forward his day one winner Chaplin to compete in the last leg. Ireland’s Conor Swail was 17th on Count Me In with Austria’s Max Kühner 18th on Elektric Blue P.

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