What a Rolex Grand Prix, what a finale for the CHIO Aachen 2024! André Thieme hadn’t actually qualified to compete in the highlight of the weekend. But on Saturday evening he found out that he had moved up onto the starter list. Then, on Sunday afternoon he fulfilled a lifetime dream with his exceptional horse, Chakaria.

It was a stony road. Thieme had explained that the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup had been disappointing for him. His horse had been in top form, but unfortunately she picked up four faults in both rounds. In one fell swoop two dreams shattered: taking part in the Rolex Grand Prix, because he didn’t qualify and participating at the Olympic Games in Paris. He has meanwhile accepted the fact that he is number five for the Olympics. Regarding the other dream – Thieme was able to participate in the highlight of the week after two riders withdrew. And since the pressure was off for the Olympics selection, he felt much more relaxed again, Thieme added – “the odd beer or two had also helped” – and he also quoted his wife: She had said: “So, go out and earn us money!‘“ As a good husband, who “loves Chakaria as much as his wife, but not more than her”, that is exactly what he did.

After two rounds, only four contenders for the 500,000 euro prize money and victory in the Rolex Grand Prix remained. McLain Ward from the USA was the first to go in the jump-off. Ward had reported on the day before that he hasn’t had Ilex for very long, but that he is a “big Jumper”. The eleven-year- old KWPN gelding by Baltic VDL demonstrated that impressively and produced a further clear round. The time did however seem beatable: 41.02 seconds.

Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei were faster, but they collected four faults, which ultimately meant fourth place for him. Then, Thieme and Chakaria entered the ring. The mare hadn’t looked like she was going to knock a rail in the first two rounds. And she also jumped immaculately in the jump-off: Clear in 39.77 seconds, faster than Ward, the new leaders. It obviously hadn’t felt like it: “After the combination I thought I am behind McLain and I only have these two last jumps left, so I’ll have to go for it. So I turned short before the oxer really aggressively and it worked out perfect. I don’t know how many strides I took to the last, I thought I’d never get there, but somehow I did. It was the last two jumps and her action that clinched the victory.“  Steve Guerdat evidently had contributed to Thieme’s strategy: “I must say thanks to Steve Guerdat. He told me your horse is jumping so fantastic today you can go for it. But ultimately Thieme had not dared to risk putting one less stride in between the two distances.


The winners of the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva, Richard Vogel and United Touch S, were last to go in the jump-off. The spectators chanted Vogel’s name, he had won over the hearts of the crowd this week with his many victories. United Touch spread his wings and flew through the Soers. As quick as lightning and clear up until the last fence. He was half way over the green and yellow Rolex vertical and then he brushed the pole slightly with his back hoof and it fell. Vogel had already raised his fist in triumph before he registered what had happened. His end result was third place with the victory going to André Thieme with Chakaria, ahead of McLain Ward and Ilex.

Thieme: “I have had so many emotional moments with Chakaria before. But it is definitely different here in Aachen – two years ago for example I was part of the team that won the Nations Cup here and I had to go clear. But, of course, the Grand Prix in Aachen is every rider’s lifetime dream, most riders never even get close to it. If I was two years older, I’d say I’m done now.“ But luckily he is not and after this victory his personal Rolex journey gets underway. Because he is now the next contender for the Rolex Grand Slam.

Mclain Ward joked: “This morning I thought if I was ahead of Richie it would be good enough and now I have come second again.” He knew where he had lost the time: “In hindsight I could have easily done eight strides to the last instead of nine.” He was nevertheless happy with his result: “My horse jumped even better in the second round than in the first. Andre took a great risk and it paid off. It was great sport!“

Richard Vogel was the same opinion and he took the opportunity to thank his entire time. “It is more their success than mine. It was the week of my life. I am not sure if I will be able to repeat that here in Aachen again.” Regarding today’s class he commented: “I went through my plan for the jump-off with McLain. Thought I could give a little breather before the last. The time was good enough. Then my horse jumped over the fence at the front but not at the back. I was sure luck was on my side, but it wasn’t.“ Nevertheless, “It has been fantastic this week and I am happy with the horse, who jumped three incredible rounds.” The fact that the crowd were calling his name was the icing on the cake: “Aachen is the best show in the world. To be here and know the crowd is behind you, gives you a fresh wind. It is a fantastic feeling!”

CHIO Aachen Head of Sport, Birgit Rosenberg, first of all thanked the sponsor Rolex for their meanwhile 25-year partnership. Her summary of the CHIO Aachen 2024: “We have experienced amazing, breath-taking sport this week. As I said after the dressage we can only prepare the stage and offer good conditions to compete. But you all paid us back with super performances and great sport all week. It was a great crowd, fantastic atmosphere, packed stadiums, absolute record attendance of 370,000 spectators. The equestrian sport is very alive here in Aachen.“


Press Release
Photo@CHIO Aachen/Franziska Sack