Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 20
Halfway through the competition at the Bank Of America Merrill Lynch World Show Jumping Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games Lorenzo de Luca’s name sits on top of the individual leaderboard.
De Luca laid down one of only five fault-free rounds out of 122 starters today in the U.S. Trust Arena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and he did it aboard a brand new partner.
The Italian just got the ride on Irenice Horta in June, and they’ve just showed five times together. Still they’ve been bonding quickly, and they came into today’s single round class sitting ninth after yesterday’s speed round.
“She’s in great, great, great form,” said de Luca of the 10-year-old mare (Vigo D’Arsouilles—Ernice Horta, Diamante de Semilly). “I had a lot of pressure on me yesterday because it was our first speed class. I haven’t been riding this mare a long time, but she’s amazing. She has a great mind, and she’s scopey and careful, and she gave me a fantastic feeling. And today she gave me an amazing feeling. When you know that your horse can jump clear it makes you feel better and ride better.”
Watch Lorenzo de Luca’s round:
Still, they had a major challenge. Alan Wade built a careful track that had rails throughout, especially down a tough last line.
“It was tricky; sometimes it just rides differently than it walks,” said Steve Guerdat, who dropped from the top of the standings to eighth after Bianca ticked a single pole. “I don’t think Alan was expecting so many mistakes. It was tricky, but I don’t think he expected it to be so bad at the [last line]. I think it rode tougher than it walked.”
While de Luca’s leading the individual competition, his home team of Italy is out of the running, as only the top 10 teams will move forward. Tomorrow’s competition will wrap up the team competition, with the individual medals determined on Sunday.
Team USA will move forward and currently sits in silver medal position less than 1 point behind Switzerland. Germany sits third.
That’s thanks in no small part to rounds by McLain Ward on Clinta and Adrienne Sternlicht on Cristalline, who both left all the poles in the cups but picked up a single time fault apiece.
Ward’s second in the individual standings—ahead of Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and H&M Christian K—on the horse he’s only been riding since March.
“She felt even better today than yesterday warming up which I kind of figured,” Ward said. “That mare, as the week goes on, only gets stronger.
“She jumped the triple bar so big even though we got the right stride to it,” he continued. “I really started to run out of room and had to be a little bit rough with her, and her athleticism there was pretty incredible —we didn’t give up, and she didn’t give up and jumped out actually easily and finished up great. Thrilled with her; it wasn’t actually the smooth ride down the last line as I would like, but sometimes you’ve got to get it done.”
Yesterday Ward had stern words for his student Sternlicht, 25, after what he deemed a subpar performance.
“I knew she can take pressure,” he said. “I’ve tested her over the last two years and put her against the wall. This isn’t amateur hour; people’s lives are changed by this. This is serious, and people put their lives work into it, and she was ready. She was a little green yesterday and a little frozen, and I was very clear that I was not impressed and didn’t think that was as good as she could deliver.
“Today she came roaring back, as I know she can, and she was as good as any rider in the world,” he continued.
Sternlicht was also thrilled with her performance.
“I feel great even though I think I was crying after the round,” said Sternlicht. “McLain always makes fun of me for how much I cry, but I think I was rubbing off on him yesterday. I went back to my typical bit [after swapping it for yesterday’s speed round]. It was always the plan to jump yesterday in jump-off tack. I think this Nations Cup format is really where we thrive because I know we can deliver.”
Team USA pathfinder Devin Ryan didn’t touch a rail, but Eddie Blue had a toe in the tub to put 4 on the board.
“That’s his first time ever putting his foot in the water,” said Ryan. “He jumped everything super amazing. He made huge efforts over everything. I don’t think he rubbed a fence on course, so I was really happy with him.”
Ryan’s had the ride on “Eddie” since the beginning of the horse’s career.
“When you have that partnership, whenever I get on that horse to get ready to go in the ring, all that pressure, those nerves, those feelings just go away,” he said. “I have so much trust in him, in that relationship, and that bond I have with him that I think he has the same for me. Otherwise I don’t think he would go out there and jump these giant tracks every day.”
Laura Kraut didn’t have the day she was looking for with two rails down to be today’s drop score with Zeremonie.
“I don’t even think she knows she had any fences down,” said Kraut. “The first one she touched so lightly I didn’t even know I had it till I heard the crowd moan, and I thought, ‘Shoot I must have had it.’ Then the last fence as well, I think she hardly touched it; she must have barely rolled it.
“And the rest, she did all the hard parts for fun,” she said. ‘The last line that everyone was having so much trouble with to the double, she did it like a gymnastic exercise. As disappointed as I am—and I am truly disappointed—I can’t be disappointed in her because she did a great job.
“She’s got loads of energy, and [Chef d’Equipe] Robert [Ridland’s] big concern this week was the energy level of these horses in this heat. But she could go back and jump another round right now,” she continued.
For full results from the FEI World Equestrian Games, click here.
For everything you need to know, including broadcast schedules, click here.
For all WEG coverage, click here.
We’ll be onsite for the full two weeks of WEG to bring you all the news you need to know plus gorgeous photos and insight into the competition. Be sure to check out the Oct. 8 issue of the Chronicle for detailed analysis.