Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 19
The best show jumpers in the world spent Wednesday zipping around the opening speed round of the Bank Of America Merrill Lynch FEI World Equestrian Games Show Jumping Championship. From the 120-strong start order emerged the day’s winner—Steve Guerdat led a strong Swiss showing on his much-loved mare, Bianca. Guerdat clocked in at 76.33 with no rails down in the faults-converted round. Pedro Veniss and Quabri de l’Isle finished second, and Rowan Willis and Blue Movie jumped to third.
“I thought if I stick to my plan I have a good chance to be in the top three today, and everything went very well. She felt brilliant,” Guerdat said. “I really enjoyed my round, and she felt like she really enjoyed jumping it, so I can’t ask for much more from her today.”
Usually it’s the bigger-strided horses who win the day, but Guerdat thinks Bianca’s short and snappy stride gave him the edge.
“The course was really fitting my horse; the distances were forward for me,” Guerdat said. “The big-strided horses had to wait for the distance and lose time. That’s why I felt confident and could just really stick to my plan and not do anything I wasn’t comfortable with; just basically the natural speed of the horse did the rest.”
While no medals are awarded from Wednesday’s speed round, faults accumulated count toward both team and individual results. Team medals will be determined by scores from the top three riders’ speed round Wednesday combined with rounds held Thursday and Friday.
At the conclusion of the team competition the top 25 ranked riders will have a rest day Saturday before competing in Sunday’s final jumping round. All rounds count toward individual medals.
Watch Guerdat’s winning round:
Currently Guerdat and the Swiss team sit in first with the Netherlands in second and Brazil third. The U.S. team sits fourth.
McLain Ward led the American effort with an eighth-placed finish aboard Clinta, his brilliant new mare that subbed in when HH Azur had to bow out of the games with a minor muscle injury. Clinta is an unknown quantity in a World Championship setting, but Ward believes she’s more than up to the task.
“She felt spectacular. If anything you’d say she’s a little high,” Ward said. “She tries so hard, and she gives so much of herself. Over 3AB she was trying to jump over the standards. I think that actually will fall a little bit as the week goes on, and she will get better as she gets in the ring more often.”
Laura Kraut and Zeremonie were the next best for team USA with a 12th-placed finish. Even with a slight stumble on course Kraut navigated the Alan Wade-designed track rail free.
“The course I really enjoyed today,” Kraut said. “Alan Wade is a brilliant course designer, and I think he’s done a great job today. He’s got a couple of difficult questions, particularly the double up at the end, but I’m relieved to have finished. The mare was amazing; she stuck right to the plan.”
Despite hot and humid temperatures in the high 80s Zeremonie looked full of fight right through the finish with Kraut.
“She’s bright like that every day. I was on her about three hours ago, and you could’ve used a kite to pull her down,” Kraut said with a laugh. “She’s always like that, and that’s why I’m consciously optimistic that the three days in a row should not really impress her too much.”
Devin Ryan aboard Eddie Blue and Adrienne Sternlicht on Cristalline rounded out the American effort with a rail apiece. Ryan sits 38th and Sternlicht 45th.
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.