AACHEN,,Germany--The Germans dominated the Rolex Grand Prix on home turf, with Marcus Ehning on Stargold winning over Daniel Deusser on Killer Queen VDM and Philipp Weishaupt on Zineday.
All four U.S.riders qualified for the Grand Prix in which only the top 40 from the week of competition competed.
McLain Ward on HH Azur was going for his third win in the Rolex Grand Slam of Jumping, having previously won in Geneva and the Dutch Masters in Rotterdam.
HH Azur, affectionately known as Annie, is 17, but she was still able to competed if her schedule was light.
Anticipation was high as Annie went into the ring, but apparently she hadn't felt quite herself to Ward in the warm-up, and indeed she had two early fences down so Ward, always looking out for the welfare of his horses, pulled up and withdrew.
He had previously said Aachen would be her last competition, and the next day he announced her retirement with a lovely tribute to her posted on Facebook.
I knew this day would come but somehow you always were able to reach deep inside and achieve greatness time and time again. We all know there comes a time when your mind and body disagree but it is still hard to let go. You have given all of us so much but it’s time to say goodbye to our sport and retire in good health.
I knew from our beginning you were better than me and that it would take every bit of my ability to not let you down. Your wings carried all of us whose lives you have touched on an incredible journey that is the epitome of why we seek such lofty goals and pursue ￼them with such passion.
You are the very definition of a queen. It was a privilege to have been the one to ride on your wings, to be your partner and to be part of your life.
- Special thank you to Lee, Erica, Virginie, Kirstie, The Mathy family, The Harrison family and all of our incredible team.
- I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in Annie and my journey. Without each and every one of you the story we’ve written would not have been possible. I’m forever grateful for your contributions and I have no doubt Annie has touched your life in a positive way as she has everyone’s.
Happy retirement my Queen ❤️"
THE GRAND PRIX was a two round class, with those clean after the two rounds advancing to the jump-off.
In the first round riders competed in reverse order of their qualification, and the top 18 went on to round two.
Laura Kraut on Balantinue went 13th and had four faults in 84.96,which qualified her for the second round in which eventually the six fastest four faulters plus the 12 clean from round one competed
Natalie Dean on her second horse, Chance Ste. Hermelle, went 17th and also had four faults but in 84.98, which turned out to be two one hundredths of a second from making the second round.
Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue, going 26th, had eight faults, and Ward, going 33rd of the 40, retired.
Kraut decided not to compete in the second round, so of the 17 that went, five were clean again to make the jump-off, three from Germany: Philipp Weishaupt with the 9-year-old Zineday, the winning pair from 2021, Daniel Deusser with Killer Queen, and Marcus Ehning with Stargold.
The two additional clean were the Mexican rider, Eugenio Garza Perez with Contago and the Olympic gold medallist, Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil with Major Tom.
They were the first two to go in the jump-off, but picked up four faults each.
Weishaupt was as fast as lightning, finishing in 43.36 seconds, but he too had a rail down, yet he was still in the lead as the fasted with four faults.
Next to go was Deusser on Killer Queen, the winners of the Rolex Grand Prix in Spruce Meadows in 2022 and thus contenders to win a 250,000-Euro bonus.
Deusser delivered a super round, clear in a time of 45.73 seconds, to be the new leader.
Marcus Ehning on Stargold entered the ring, and the huge crowd in the stadium fell silent.
One could even hear Stargold’s rhythmic snorting from the top rows of the stand.
The stallion didn’t waste a millisecond in the air, nor did Ehning on the ground.
He didn’t quite find the right take-off at one fence, the whole crowd gasped, but the rail stayed up.
And when he jumped the last obstacle clear, Ehning glanced swiftly to the clock: 45.12 seconds, first place.
Ehning tore his helmet from his head, cheered, hugged his stallion’s neck, waved to the crowd, evidently not knowing what to do for pure joy.
He had succeeded - for the third time - for the first time with Stargold.
He could hardly hold back the tears during the prize-giving ceremony.
Stargold on the other hand stood relaxed on a long rein in front of the Rolex Grand Slam Trophy, laughed like a stallion, putting his head in the air and wrinkling his nose.
"He is probably a bit arrogant, but in a nice way,” said Ehning. "And a real pal.”
“Today, was our day," said Ehning. "I had a good feeling all week. He likes the stadium, he was in super form two weeks ago. But to win the Grand Prix of Aachen is unbelievable!”
It was a very expensive sixth tenths of a second for Deusser.
“I am very, very happy with the performance of my horse today," said Duesser. "We had three really fantastic clear rounds. I thought the jump-off was good for my feeling. I tried to put a bit of pressure on Marcus. I have mixed feelings, of course I would like to be stand on the winning podium, but even if I had ridden a second faster, Marcus would probably have done the same.“
“No one else had such a young horse, said Weishaupt. "So, sitting here on the podium next to these two guys with their experienced Championship horses is a great result. I took the oxer too direct, I could have chosen the line a bit better and then it would have took Daniel and Marcus a little bit more to beat us. But to come third here in Aachen with a 9-year-old horse is fantastic!”