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McLain Ward and HH Azur Win LONGINES FEI World Cup Jumping Omaha Speed Round

Omaha, Nebraska - March 30, 2017 - Less than a blink of an eye separated the top three in the LONGINES FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I Speed Round on Thursday evening. Two-time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) claimed the victory on HH Azur, stopping the Longines timers in 59.27 seconds, just fractions of a second ahead of Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and Mary Lou with 59.58. Two-time defending World Cup™ Champion Steve Guerdat (SUI) was third on Bianca in 60.06 seconds.

McLain Ward and HH Azur
Photo by Lili Weik

"I never won a class without a little luck. There were a few places where I could have been a little smoother, but you have a little bit of anxiety on the first night," said Ward. "I thought the course was big enough for the first night. In reality there was just a whisker between the three of us, I was just a bit fortunate.

"With a horse like HH Azur you come to the event with high hopes and particularly on home soil you would like to have a great finish. This is a special event. I think Lisa Roskens and her team have done a wonderful job with this event. I have quite a few close friends who made the trip here, including my wife and daughter, so I tried to make everybody proud."

McLain Ward and HH Azur win LONGINES FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I 
Photo by Lili Weik

More than half the field of the 37 starters took to the Alan Wade-designed course before Ward captured the lead. His stellar ride shaved off fractions of a second to take over the top spot. Although Guerdat could not speed past Ward, he was satisfied with his top three finish. 

"It was a great course for the first day. I am very happy with the position especially with the way my horse was jumping. The ride could have been a little bit better, but I'm very happy. I hope to have a good fight at the end and I can keep on riding her the way she deserves."  

Steve Guerdat and Bianca
Photo by Lili Weik

With only five riders remaining it seemed as if Guerdat would be the runner-up until von Eckermann, going second to last, slid into second place. "My horse was jumping unbelievably. I made a mistake from the second fence to the third and in the end it cost me the win. It was absolutely my fault. My horse was incredible. This was for sure one of my toughest events. I am really happy with second. I always said that McLain was my favorite and now I am just behind him. I will try to catch up."
  
 
Henrik von Eckermann and Mary Lou
Photo by Lili Weik

Jumping continues on Friday with the LONGINES FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final II and culminates with Sunday's Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final III, which determines the World Cup™ jumping champion. 
 
Equestrian sports' most prestigious annual indoor championship for jumping and dressage horses, the FEI World Cup™ Finals Omaha 2017 has attracted the world's top riders and horses representing 27 countries, including Olympic, World and European Champions. They will compete for the coveted titles in front of 60,000 fans from all 50 states and 20 countries.
  
To watch World Cup competition live please visit: www.feitv.org 
 
Started in 1979, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final is an annual international showdown among the world's best show jumping horses and riders. In the 38 Finals held through 2016, Germany (10) and the United States (9) have emerged with the most titles, having won the championship nineteen times between them. Previous FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals held in the United States include Baltimore (1980), Tampa (1989), Del Mar, CA (1992) and Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2015).
 
First held in 1986, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final features the world's best dressage horses and riders. The United States has won the championship twice - in 2003 (Debbie McDonald with Brentina) and 2009 (Steffen Peters with Ravel). The Final has been held in the U.S. in Los Angeles (1995) and Las Vegas (2005, 2007, 2009, and 2015).
 
Tickets Still Available
A range of ticket packages are still available for the Finals in Omaha! Single-Session tickets for either Jumping or Dressage range from $45 - $85 depending on the session and location. All-Session ticket packages include seats for five events in either jumping or dressage. The best seats in the house are the VIP Tickets in the first 5 rows which include access to the VIP Hospitality Lounge throughout the event! The VIP Hospitality Lounge will feature full meals, open bar, live music, concierge service and other amenities, all included with each VIP ticket.
 
For more information about the FEI World Cup™ Finals Omaha 2017 and to purchase tickets, please go to www.OmahaWorldCup2017.com, charge by phone at 402-930-3079 or at the CenturyLink Center Omaha box office.