McLain Ward and HH Azur return to winner’s circle at WEF

Competition for week 8 at the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), presented by Premier Equestrian, concluded on Sunday, March 6, with the $216,000 CSIO4* Grand Prix, presented by JTWG, Inc. Four-time Olympic medalist McLain Ward (USA) and his veteran partner HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm, led the victory gallop. The 2022 WEF continues with WEF 9, sponsored by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, on March 9-13.

There were 48 starters in Sunday afternoon’s grand prix, and they contested a course designed by Nick Granat (USA) and Steve Stephens (USA). Eight were clear to advance to the jump-off. Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) and Cornwall BH started the short course first but a rail for four faults in 36.75 seconds left them in fourth place. Karl Cook (USA) and Helen Signe Ostby’s Coachella 4 also had four faults in a slower time of 38.05 seconds for seventh place.

Ward and HH Azur were next into the ring and “Annie” stretched her stride out to blaze around the course clear in 35.22 seconds, setting an unbeatable time.

Click to watch McLain Ward’s winning jump-off! Presented by Premier Equestrian.
“She was really covering the ground great,” affirmed Ward. “I always have to watch a little bit of her left turn. That’s always been her weak side, so I was a little worried about the Fidelity jump, but I made sure she jumped it before I tried to turn back too quick. She really performed beautifully, and we were able to get the nine [strides] home and put just enough pressure on these guys that we held up.”

Ward’s student Lillie Keenan (USA) and Agana van het Gerendal Z, owned by Chansonette Farm LLC, were quick in 37.20 seconds but with four faults; they finished in sixth place. Hilary McNerney (USA) rode her own Captain Cooper to eighth place after eight faults in 38.28 seconds.

At just 24 years old, Ioli Mytilineou (GRE) continues to show her growth in the sport. She and Levis de Muze, owned by Elia Construction SA, stopped the timers in 36.84 seconds with a clear round and slotted into second place at the end of the class.

HH Azur added yet another grand prix victory to her record with McLain Ward. © Sportfot.
Of her top grand prix finish, Mytilineou expressed, “It means absolutely everything, to be honest. Last year here I was mostly fourth or fifth place, so I never actually got into the prize-giving ceremony. To be in it between McLain and Ben, two of the best riders in the world, is insane to me.

“When I went into the ring, the last thing my trainer said to me was, ‘Don’t risk a rail. You can be quicker than McLain anyway.’ I just looked at him and laughed, but I tried to go as fast as I could and go clear,” she recalled.

Source and photo by PBIEC/Sportfot

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