Antwerp, Belgium—April 26
McLain Ward blasted to the top of the new Longines Global Champions Tour season ranking by winning the Longines Global Champions Tour of Antwerp Grand Prix in front of a buzzing, sell-out crowd.
His mount, Rothchild, is known for his unusual jumping style and his ears-pinned, tail-swirling demeanor. “Rothchild is much easier to ride than he looks,” Ward said. “He’s a bit feisty and he has his own jumping style. I’ve had him six years and he started as a second horse for me, but a good campaigner, and last year I was a little short of horse stock and I needed him to step up and he’s really been wonderful. He gives me everything he has and he’s my friend—I appreciate him very much.”
Second place went to LGCT fan favorite Rolf-Göran Bengtsson of Sweden with Casall ASK and third to a thrilled Constant van Paesschen of Belgium with Citizenguard Toscan de Sainte.
The first leg of the prestigious LGCT series was a truly exciting class where the technical demands of course designer Luc Musette really sorted the best from this world-class field.
It was a stunning start to the championship series that brings equestrian sport to the heart of city centers around the world, from Antwerp to Shanghai and London to Paris.
The floodlit Antwerp show ground was buzzing with a party atmosphere, full grandstands and several thousand guests enjoying champagne and first class VIP dining as long boats cruised along the wide River Scheldt only a few meters from the edge of the arena.
The tough track saw just fives riders through to the final jump-off with everything to play for.
First to go in the final round, it was a welcome return from injury for Bengtsson who set the standard with a beautiful clear in 37.33 seconds. Bassem Hassan Mohammed of Qatar put in one of the best performances of his career with Primeval Dejavu, jumping a clear with a jump-off time of 38.38 to finish fourth.
Third to go and favorite to take the win tonight after winning two classes over three days in Antwerp, Penelope Leprevost of France and Nayana started at a swift pace looking determined to beat Rolf’s time, but they lowered a tall vertical across the middle of the arena for 4 faults in a fast time of 35.73 seconds.
Ward and Rothchild were the penultimate pair to compete and shaved fractions of a second off Bengtsson’s time with an impressive 37.12 seconds. Van Paesschen had pole position as last to go in the jump-off, but his big-jumping careful mount Citizenguard Toscan de Sainte was not quite quick enough to catch McLain and he stopped the clock at 37.93 seconds to land third.
“Belgium is my ‘home away from home’—I always stay with Francois Mathy, so it’s extra special to win here,” said Ward. “Competing in [Wellington, Fla.] all winter the level of competition has gotten very good; we were lucky to have the top two riders in the world there this year, so it’s good preparation. But the best competition is here in Europe still and always the LGCT presents some of the best riders in the world, and it’s always a great challenge.”