Aachen, Germany—July 2
The crowd knew it before he did. As Marcus Ehning galloped through the timers on Stargold with a clear jump-off round, his face was blank despite the screaming spectators. His eyes looked up at the scoreboard but didn’t register what had just happened: that he’d won the 1.5 million euros Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen CSI5* with a time of 45.12 seconds, barely faster than his countryman Daniel Deusser’s 45.73 seconds clocked on Killer Queen VDM.
But then the board loaded, showing him the missing info and the placings, and as he faced one part of the roaring crowd, he removed his helmet and hoisted it above his head in a cheer before collapsing onto his horse’s neck.
“I did cry,” said Ehning afterwards. “It was an incredible day for us. It’s such an amazing horse.”
Ehning and Deusser were the only two of five to jump clear in the jump-off; Philipp Weishaupt finished third with the fastest 4-fault round on Zineday, completing a German sweep of the podium placings.
“What do I say? I’m very happy with the perforamce of my horse today,” said Deusser. “She was fast in the jump-off. I had a very good round and thought I put a little pressure on Marcus, but at the end of the day, yeah, of course it’s a mixed feeling. You’d like to win one more time and stand on the podium, but on the other hand if I do one stride less and one second faster, Marcus would probably do the same behind me. I’m delighted with my horse today and happy with the second place.”
This wasn’t Ehning’s first Grand Prix of Aachen victory—he also won the feature class in 2006 and 2018—but that it’s a repeat victory doesn’t dampen his delight in doing it again.
“I was hoping he’d jump well today, but you never know with horses,” said Ehning. “Two weeks ago he was in really good shape, so I had a bit of hope, but to win the Grand Prix of Aachen is unbelievable.”
Forty riders started the class, including McLain Ward, who was vying for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping as a live contender with HH Azur. But after the 17-year-old mare had rails at Fence 2 and 3, he elected to put his hand up and retire.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” said Ward. “You certainly come with high hopes. I knew Azur was kind of on the last gas, and she just always seems to be able to pull something magical out. It just didn’t feel like we had it today. I probably didn’t ride her also 100% like I believed she had all the energy to do it. So it’s disappointing, but I don’t think it takes anything away from her incredible career. As I said to my daughter when she was crying today, I was only the second person who’s ever been in this position, and we’ll continue and fight on and be proud of the work we’ve done.
“I think Annie means a lot to the entire equestrian community and fans of show jumping, particularly in the United States. She really is a queen,” Ward continued. “We really thought she was going to retire a couple years ago, and she had this rebirth, and the last 18 months have been just an incredible ride. I knew it was going to come to an end somewhere, and maybe I just didn’t quite believe enough today. We’re all very grateful to be in Annie’s life, and she’s going to have a wonderful retirement and maybe a few babies.”
Later in the day, Ward announced Annie’s retirement from competition on his social media:
Three other U.S. competitors started and completed Round 1—Laura Kraut on Baloutinue, Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue, and Natalie Dean on Chance Ste Hermelle. Dean and Kraut had one rail each, and Ryan pulled two.
Kraut was the only U.S. rider to qualify for the second round, and she would have returned in 18th place out of the 18 competitors, but she elected not to jump Baloutinue again.