Aachen, Germany—June 29
Does Martin Fuchs, FEI World Cup Final winner, FEI World Equestrian Games medalist, Olympic competitor and FEI European Championship individual gold medalist, feel pressure?
If he does, he didn’t show it tonight as he headed into the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup on Commissar Pezi at the CHIO Aachen. The Swiss rider knew a clear would seal his team’s victory—but one rail would mean they would have to jump-off against the other nations on 8 penalties (Great Britain and Belgium).
And thanks to the clear Fuchs delivered, Switzerland (Fuchs, Steve Guerdat on Venard De Cerisy, Niklaus Schurtenberger on C-Steffra, and Edouard Schmitz on Gamin Van’t Naastveldhof) finished on 4 penalties, with Great Britain slotting into second and Belgium in third.
“I had a really good feeling,” Fuchs said. “Commissar jumped amazing the first round and felt great warming up the second round. Steve [Guerdat] was there giving me confidence. We didn’t jump him much before the second round. When I entered I had a lot of confidence, thanks to this amazing horse. I was like, ‘Let’s try to win this Nations Cup.’ The last line I started to get a little nervous, knowing there were only two jumps left. It’s the coolest Nations Cup there is, and I’m really, really happy to win here in Aachen with a great team. It’s a beautiful, beautiful night.”
The NetJets U.S. Show Jumping Team of Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue, McLain Ward on Callas, Laura Kraut on Baloutinue, and Natalie Dean on Acota M finished fourth after earning 12 penalties. The German team slotted into fifth.
In the first round, Ward on Callas jumped clear while Dean and Ryan picked up 4 faults apiece, and Kraut was the drop score with 8. Ward followed that up with another clear in the second round, Kraut and Dean had 4 each, and Ryan jumped a clear.
“First and foremost, [my priority was as] anchor rider for the team,” Ward said. “The team was having a little bit of bad luck with 4-fault rounds but performing well, so I wanted to deliver the best performance we could. She’s a spectacular mare and a wonderful character.”
Catch a glimpse of their performance, courtesy of CHIO Aachen:
Next Ward has his eyes on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, a title he’ll try and earn Sunday in the 1.5 million euro Rolex Grand Prix CSIO5*. Without tonight’s performance. he wouldn’t have been eligible to contest it at all.
“This was my only opportunity to qualify for the grand prix [on Sunday] because Contagious had a little accident this week and isn’t able to compete,” he said. “Then you really get your back against the wall, and that certainly ratcheted up a little bit with the Grand Slam situation, but you need to push those things out of your mind and focus on executing the job.”
Ward isn’t certain which mount he’ll choose for Sunday’s feature class, HH Azur or Callas.
“I’m not going to show [Callas] tomorrow. I’m going to keep them both on ice,” he said. “Obviously outside of the Nations Cup, we came here for the grand prix, and you can’t avoid the fact that there’s a little more emphasis on it. Azur’s in a sunset moment, and so we’re just going to quietly get through the next couple of days and keep both horses well prepped and make my decision Saturday night who’s going to go Sunday.
“I’m going to try and focus on the class,” he added. “It’s easy to get distracted by the other stuff, but it doesn’t change the test. This grand prix, for some reason, is a little bit my battle in life, and one of these days we’re going to going to get it.”