‘I never thought I’d have a chance’: emotional win in Aachen grand prix

  • It was an emotional win in the Rolex grand prix of Aachen for home rider Andre Thieme and his superstar DSP Chakaria, who took a title he “never, ever thought I’d have a chance in”.

    The 2021 European champions were third of four to go in the third and final round, beating McLain Ward and Ilex into second place by a quarter of a second, with Richard Vogel and United Touch S third. Britain’s Ben Maher was fifth with Dallas Vegas Batilly, one unlucky rail in the first round keeping them out of the jump-off.

    First to go, McLain took advantage of the long stride of the 11-year-old gelding with whom he has been selected for the Olympics, with some beautiful balanced turns to finish clear and in a time that was beatable, to put the pressure on the others.

    Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei were faster, but a tighter turn to the Mercedes oxer meant they had it down. Andre Thieme’s 14-year-old mare, owned by Pferdemanagement & Marketing GmbH, does not have a huge stride; the combination put in one extra on the first two lines, and were down on the clock. But thanks to the agile mare’s speed on her turns and through the air, and a mighty effort from both to the last, they were in front. Richard and his Olympic partner were faster and clear – until the last fence. Knowing his time was good, a second ahead of Andre’s, his arm was almost in the air, but the pole was falling behind them.

    “I’ve had some emotional moments with that mare; she’s given me so many,” Andre said. “But it’s different here in Aachen. Two years ago, I was on the team that won the Nations Cup, last to go and knew I had to be clear. I was clear, and that was something I’ll never forget. But the grand prix of Aachen is every rider’s lifetime dream.

    “Most riders never even get close to it so that makes it extra special. This is really a dream, and if I was two years older, I’d probably say ‘I’m done now’.”

    Andre said he knew his extra strides had slowed him down compared to McLain and Ilex.

    “I came into the combination and knew I had two left and had to go for it or stay behind McLain,” he said. “I turned really short and it worked out perfectly. The whole time to the last I was thinking ‘I’m not going to get there’ but somehow I got there and she cleared it.”

    Andre has said many times that he loves his mare as much as he does his wife.

    “She totally understands, and she likes her too,” he said, adding: “Especially when I come home with this prize cheque!

    “She’s made so many things happen in our lives, we’ve had unbelievable moments, all over the world. She’s given me championship medals but this, the grand prix of Aachen; I thought I’d never have a chance.”

    McLain has only been riding his own and Bonne Chance Farm’s 11-year-old since early this year, and this was only the second jump-off for them as a combination.

    “He did everything exactly as I planned,” he said. “In hindsight, I could have gone on eight strides to the last but Andre took a risk and it paid off. And that’s great sport.”

    Richard thanked his team for a week in which he had notched up four wins and six other podium finishes.

    “My horse jumped three amazing rounds today,” he said. “I had a plan for the jump-off and everything worked out well enough so I thought I could have a breath before the last. I was sure the time was good enough and he was over the fence in front but not behind. But I’m more than happy, with how my horse jumped and the success the rest of the week. Andre won it and he deserved it, and I’m happy to be third.”

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