Mill Spring, N.C. – Sept. 20, 2018 – More than 120 of the world’s elite show jumping horse-and-athlete combinations returned to the U.S. Trust Arena on Thursday, each jockeying for a place in the upper echelon of the rankings at the FEI World Equestrian Games™. Mirroring Wednesday’s proceedings, the second-to-last contender of the day concluded competition at the head of the leaderboard, with Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca piloting Irenice Horta to one of the only fault-free trips to secure the top honors. In the team competition, Switzerland preserved their lead, while the home team from the U.S. leapfrogged into the overnight silver medal position, trailed by Germany in third place overall.
For almost the entirety of the day’s competition, Germany’s Simone Blum and DSP Alice held the top spot, impressive considering the duo were ninth in the order of go out of 122 pairs. It took until the 106th entry for their position atop the rankings to fall, with crowd favorites McLain Ward (USA) and Clinta eclipsing the German combination to take over the individual lead with a small portion of the field left to ride. The penultimate pair in the order of go, de Luca and Stephex Stables’ Irenice Horta could not afford any mistakes if they hoped to usurp the current leaders, who sat in the first prize slot with one penalty. The Italian partnership had finished Wednesday’s speed class in a quick time of 78.71 seconds to earn ninth position after the first phase, with only fractions of a point separating them from the early frontrunners. Bringing the crowd to their feet one final time, de Luca and Irenice Horta expertly maneuvered the 17-effort course to supply the final clean and clear trip of the pack and capture the champion honors. Ward and Clinta held on to the runner-up position, and Sweden’s Peder Fredericson directed Stuteri Arch’s H&M Christian K to third position overall.
Only their fifth outing together, Thursday’s standings are a highlight of de Luca and Irenice Horta’s short tenure together, with top accomplishments in Aachen and Dublin kicking off their relationship earlier this summer. De Luca only acquired the ride aboard Irenice Horta in early June, and he has already accumulated noteworthy results with the 10-year-old grey mare. Head and shoulders above the rest of his team, de Luca will represent his native Italy as an individual, with the collective Italian squad not performing well enough to earn a top ten placing over the initial two days of competition.
Throughout the course of the day, a mere five pairs, each from different countries, navigated clear rounds by leaving the course intact and tripping the timers within the tight 85-second time allowed. De Luca (ITA) and Irenice Horta, Peder Fredricson (SWE) with the reins on H&M Christian K, Blum (GER) and DSP Alice, Cian O’Connor (IRL) aboard Good Luck and Max Kühner (AUT) with Chardonnay proved to be the most successful challengers over course designer Alan Wade’s (IRL) 14-obstacle track. With the fences set at a lofty 1.65m height, the course offered entries multiple opportunities to slice time off the clock, but also deceptively invited lengthy gallops if pairs opted to maximize their time setting up for a fence. Outside of the five day-topping clean and clear performances, four other exhibitors managed not to lower any rails but fell victim to one time fault. For Ward and Clinta, the grey mare he co-owns with Sagamore Farms, the singular penalty proved to be the difference between first and second position.
The day’s contest operated as the first round of a Nations Cup format, with the second phase taking place Friday to determine team medal-winners in addition to the 25 elite individual pairs that will advance to Sunday’s grand finale. Following Thursday’s battle in the ring, the top ten nations will progress into the ultimate stage of competition, with Switzerland, USA and Germany leading the way. Headed into the third and final team phase, less than one point separates the top two teams, and the Americans have a rail in hand with more than 4 faults separating them from Germany.
Maintaining their place atop the scorecard, the team from Switzerland was led by Janika Sprunger and Swiss golden boy and Longines FEI world-ranked #9 Steve Guerdat, the previous day’s leader aboard Elias Stud Farm’s Bianca. Beginning the day with a perfect score of 0, Guerdat and the 12-year-old mare accrued 4 faults against them Thursday to drop to eighth place individually, while teammates Sprunger and Dufour Stables AG’s Bacardi VDL surpassed them to claim sixth in the rankings, the best Swiss position at day’s end. Enhancing the team’s overall performance, Martin Fuchs and Luigi Baleri’s Clooney finished in tenth place.
The rightful anchor for the team from the U.S. boasting an extensive list of accolades, Ward and Clinta were the last to ride for their squad, as well as one of the final duos to take their turn around the show ring. Entering the second phase in eight place, the world-ranked #2 and multiple-time Olympic Games medalist laid down the gauntlet with a near-perfect ride over Wade’s course that propelled them to first place despite picking up one time fault. Following Ward and Clinta’s chart-topping ride, 16 pairs subsequently aimed to chase them down, with only de Luca and Irenice Horta proving capable of doing so to clinch first prize. Mimicking her coach, Adrienne Sternlicht and Starlight Farms 1 LLC’s Cristalline also earned one time fault to settle into the second-best score for the Americans, followed by Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue, owned by LL Show Jumpers LLC, with a foot in the water to collect 4 faults. Rounding out the team, Laura Kraut and Old Willow Farms LLC’s Zeremonie were the drop score with 8 faults. Overall, the home team finished with all four partnerships ranked within the top 30.
Led by Blum and her own DSP Alice, the team from Germany will head into Thursday sitting in third position just slightly ahead of Sweden. Blum and the chestnut mare turned in one of the only clean and clear trips at the onset of the day to finish in fourth place, and were closely followed by counterparts Laura Klaphake and Paul Schockemöhle’s Catch Me If You Can OLD with a 1-penalty ride. Though Marcus Ehning and Pret A Tout, owned by Ehning and Ruth Krech, knocked two fences, the pair still finished within the top 25 thanks to a strong day one score.
The final day of team jumping competition will take place Friday at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, featuring the top 10 eligible squads after the first two days of riding. Performances from the team contenders, as well as qualified individuals, will determine which 25 pairs advance to the ultimate phase of riding Sunday to vie for the title of individual world champion.
Second Competition – Team and Individual
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Day 1 Score / Day 2 Score / Total
1. Lorenzo de Luca / ITA / Irenice Horta / Stephex Stables / 1.19 / 0 / 1.19
2. McLain Ward / USA / Clinta / McLain Ward, Sagamore Farms / 1.08 / 1 / 2.08
3. Peder Fredricson / SWE / H&M Christian K / Stuteri Arch / 2.16 / 0 / 2.16
4. Simone Blum / GER / DSP Alice / Simone Blum / 2.47 / 0 / 2.47
5. Cian O’Connor / IRL / Good Luck / Adena Springs & Ronnoco Jump Ltd. / 2.69 / 0 / 2.69
6. Janika Sprunger / SUI / Bacardi VDL / Dufour Stables AG / 1.96 / 1 / 2.96
7. Max Kühner / AUT / Chardonnay / Max Kühner / 2.97 / 0 / 2.97
8. Steve Guerdat / SUI / Bianca / Elias Stud Farm / 0 / 4 / 4.00
9. Pedro Veniss / BRA / Quabri de l’Isle / C. Veniss, C. Daurella de Aguilera / 0.17 / 4 / 4.17
10. Martin Fuchs / SUI / Clooney / Luigi Baleri / 0.68 / 4 / 4.68
11. Harrie Smolders / NED / Don VHP Z N.O.P. / Copernicus Stables LLC / 0.89 / 4 / 4.89
12. Adrienne Sternlicht / USA / Cristalline / Starlight Farms 1 LLC / 4.26 / 1 / 5.26
1. Switzerland – 11.64
2. United States of America – 12.59
3. Germany – 18.09
4. Sweden – 20.59
5. Netherlands – 24.35
6. Ireland – 27.12
7. France – 27.76
8. Australia – 28.32
9. Great Britain – 31.04
10. Canada – 32.89
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Lorenzo de Luca – FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping, first place individually
On Irenice Horta:
“She’s in great form. Yesterday, for me, was a lot of pressure because it was our first big class. I haven’t ridden this mare for a long time, but she has a great mind and is scopey and careful, and yesterday was a fantastic feeling. Today, again an amazing feeling. When you know your horse can jump clear, it makes you feel better and ride better.”
On his partnership with Irenice Horta:
“This is our fifth show together. We had our first big classes in Aachen and she was amazing — the Nations Cup in Aachen and the grand prix. She finished third in the grand prix and had one down in the Nations Cup. The grand prix was really tough and it’s the same course designer, so I had a feeling I could do it. After that, she had just two really small shows, and we kept a bit of a happy mind and it seems like it’s working.”
On expectations for the rest of the weekend:
“It’s only halfway, and I’m glad the horse is jumping well. For sure, I will fight to the end. Just because it’s my fifth show with her, I’m going to gear up. I’m a fighter. She’s jumping amazing, and it would be ridiculous if I didn’t try. She can do it, and I know I can do it, so we will try our best.”
McLain Ward – FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping, second place individually
On his round with Clinta:
“She actually felt better today than yesterday warming up, which I figured as the week goes on the mare only gets stronger. The beginning felt brilliant, but when I turned to the liverpool on the far end she definitely was trying very hard. I wanted to do the add to the very difficult last double, which, being the jumper she is, I knew was going to be difficult, but I knew it was the right choice. She jumped the triple bar so big even though we got the right stride to it, and I really started to run out of room and had to be a little bit rough with her, but her athleticism there was pretty incredible. We didn’t give up and jumped out actually easily and finished out great. I’m thrilled with her. It wasn’t exactly the smooth ride down the last line that I would like, but sometimes you have to get it done.”
On his new partnership with Clinta:
“There’s always a little unknown because we haven’t been through this before and it’s always at the back of your mind, but that’s my nature a little bit. I never go in the ring thinking I’ve got it all figured out, I always have doubts. I’m thrilled with her and thrilled with the team, everybody is doing their job. Adrienne stepped up brilliantly today, and for a kid coming along like her that was huge. Devin is having a little bit of bad luck, but I think he’ll deliver a clear tomorrow.”
On working with Adrienne Sternlicht as his student:
“I yelled at her yesterday, and she’s tough. The reason I was confident to stand behind her selection to this team is that I knew she could take the pressure. 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, and this is serious; people put their life’s work into it. She was ready, she was a little green yesterday and a little frozen. I was very clear that I was not impressed and I didn’t think that was as good as she could deliver. It was a good thing we had a very good horse and we were prepared well and she came back, roaring back as I know she can and was as good as any rider in the world.”
Peder Fredricson – FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping, third place individually
On his ride with H&M Christian K:
“I was warming up really short, only 15 minutes, took a few jumps and went in. My thoughts were just to keep the plan — that’s all you can do, try to stick to your plan and hope the horse is jumping good and the plan is good. He felt really fresh and good today, so I hope he feels the same for tomorrow. We try to look after him as well as possible with the feeding and keeping cool and all that. Normally he’s pulling me around because he’s a strong horse, but today at the wall I was almost thinking he was going to stop, he was really holding back in the beginning, but then we got the rhythm good and he jumped the whole course.”
On the course:
“It rode a bit more difficult than I walked it. I thought it would be a few more clears, to be honest. But the time was also short and the horses went on time yesterday. It was good for me today there weren’t so many clears!”
On H&M Christian K:
“I bought him two years ago. He was going with a Swedish rider on a national level, and I saw him and thought he was a really strong horse. He’s careful, scopey and awesome. We’ve done a lot of good things along the way.”
Adrienne Sternlicht (USA)
On competing at WEG:
“It is surreal. I think I have been through an array of emotions, all over the map today. I knew that what I did yesterday and the kind of intensity I was trying to channel by gritting my teeth when I went to the ring wasn’t productive for me, so I took a new approach. That was just to relax and trust my horse and the love we have for one another.”
On how she felt after her course:
“I feel great! I think that I was crying after my round. McLain always makes fun of me for how much I cry and that I was rubbing off on him because he had a tear in his eye when I went into the ring. We are all going to cry today. I absolutely had more control [than yesterday] and I think that she settled in. I really woke up this morning and had some kind of an epiphany that I needed to relax, and I think that translated into my ride. I thought it was a very difficult course – there were fences falling everywhere and it’s massive, so I really thought about taking it one fence at a time. I think that’s where my time fault came, but I was more focused on having a clear round cause I knew that was what our team needed.”
On her bit choice:
“I went back to my typical bit today. That was always the plan – to jump yesterday in my jump-off tack, but this is really my comfort zone. I think this Nations Cup format is really where we thrive because I know we can always find a way to be relaxed and breathe and always deliver.”
On coach McLain Ward’s advice:
“He said he was proud of me, which is really nice. He said to me before we went to the ring, ‘I know I told you that it’s 100% five strides down the last line, but if you are jumping clear and you feel that you have enough control, I want you to do six strides.’ It’s hot out and it was a long course, plus I could feel that my horse was getting maybe a little tired at the end. I wanted to put it together and he was happy with all the decisions I made. McLain and I are really close, so that means that at times it’s quite tense between us. He knows when to support me when I need that love, and also when I need to be yelled at honestly, so he was yelling at me a little and that fired me up.”
Devin Ryan (USA)
On what information he brought back to his teammates:
“I think they learned a lot by watching me go. The time is doable and not too tight today. I think they saw that, too, because I am not necessarily the fastest horse on course across the field, and I think my teammates will be doing six strides home and not the five. ]My horse] is a big mover and I think I was the first person to leave out the stride.”
On preparing for multiple days of jumping:
“He has always done well off of a good break. He had four weeks off before World Cup Finals this year, and he had five weeks off after that before showing at Devon. I gave him another five weeks off after Dublin before coming here, just to give him a break. I made sure that when he came back over from Europe, after all that flying, that I got some weight back on him because it takes a lot of weight off of most horses. I let him do some nice gallops, but we didn’t practice jumping. I like to save the jumps for in the ring, so I kept his fitness up with three hand gallops a week to help his lungs. Even in the humidity now, when he comes to a competition like this he can be fresh day after day. Even today, he was bucking and playing in the schooling area. He was electric during the jog earlier in the week, so I know that he is still fresh. I think we are all set up for Friday, tomorrow.”
Laura Kraut (USA)
On her performance with Zeremonie:
“I won’t do anything different. She was great, she jumped super! I’m deeply disappointed for my teammates as well, it puts a lot of stress on Mclain, which is not my intention! To be honest with you, I wouldn’t do anything different than what I did today. I was pleased with the way she rode, I was happy with the way I rode. We’re all living in a home together so we definitely don’t want to have to deal with that! But Devin and Adrienne were phenomenal! Devin was unlucky and Adrienne rode around as we were all hoping for her to ride, she was brilliant. If we can all come back tomorrow and go as well with a little bit of luck I think we will medal.”
On her first fault:
“When I came out I don’t even think she noticed it. You know the last line that everyone was having so much struggle with, the double she did it like a gymnastic exercise so as disappointed as I am, and I am really disappointed, I can’t be disappointed in her because she did just a great job.”
On her faults:
“The first, she touched so lightly, I didn’t even know I had it until I heard the crowd groan. Then the last fence I don’t think she hardly touched it, she must have just barely rolled it. The rest she did all the hard parts fine felt ready and I think she felt ready and she jumped the first part of the course brilliantly and the first one that she had down I mean I don’t, Nick said she just barely touched it behind, she made a beautiful jump over it, you know in front. So I don’t think she was lacking concentration I just think it was unlucky, the show jumping gods just weren’t with her today. The rest, the water and all the parts that everybody has sort of been struggling with she just did so well. I’m disappointed for myself as an individual because I think that will knock me out for Sunday but I feel like, for tomorrow, we are ready to come back and put in a clear and hopefully try to get ourselves a [team] medal.”
On Adrienne’s performance for the team:
“She was always talented from the moment I started helping her. Her work ethic is amazing, she’s driven and she’s really got all the ingredients. A few years ago she was actually being solicited to join the team for Israel, and she was riding for Mclain already and I said ‘Listen here you’re going to ride on our team so you stick with us!’ I’m pleased to say ‘here she is!’ She’s a great girl and she showed a lot of tenacity.”
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