Mill Spring, N.C. – Sept. 19, 2018 – Jumping made its debut at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 early Wednesday, with horse-and-athlete combinations representing 49 countries taking center stage in the U.S. Trust Arena for the first day of individual and team riding. Of the 124 global contenders, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Bianca came out on top individually with the speediest trip, while the teams from Switzerland, the Netherlands and Brazil set themselves up for success headed into round two with the three top spots in the rankings thanks to their quick composite times from competing team members.
The first of the large field to ride, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z, co-owned by Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm, set the early standard for the day, navigating a fault-free trip over acclaimed course designer Alan Wade’s track in 80.19 seconds. Known for his fair and technical tracks, Wade (IRE) concocted a 17-effort course for contenders that offered two options fences, a water jump and plenty of opportunities to slice time off the clock. Reintroduced to the world championship format, the day’s activities operated as a speed class, thus any faults accrued by competitors during day one would be converted into time to determine final marks headed into the second phase.
At the midway break for the day, Sweetnam had been overtaken by a mere three challengers. Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo and S.A.S. Haras Des Grillons’ Admara of Colombia led the way with a blazing time of 77.96 seconds, followed by Japan’s owner-rider Karen Polle in the saddle aboard With Wings and Marc Houtzager with the reins on Sterrehof’s Calimero, owned by Stoeterij Sterrehof, in second and third positions, respectively. Lopez Lizarazo’s place atop the leaderboard would not hold long, though, as just past the halfway point of the pack Brazilian Pedro Veniss and Quabri de L’Isle, a chestnut stallion owned by Carmen Daurella De Aguilera, Leonor Rotllant Daurella and Camila Veniss, improved upon the current leading pair’s time by nearly one and a half seconds, tripping the timers in an impressive 76.68 seconds to capture the lead.
Throughout the entirety of the day, the lead amazingly changed hands only three times over the course of 124 rides, with representatives from Ireland, Japan and Brazil taking a turn atop the scorecard until Switzerland’s show jumping poster child Guerdat ousted the top performers to clinch the individual title. Guerdat saved the best for nearly last as the second-to-final exhibitor, piloting Elias Stud Farm’s Bianca to a textbook trip in 76.33 seconds, leaving the course intact to sweep the victory less than half of a second ahead of Veniss and Quabri de L’Isle, who hung on to the runner-up position. Australia’s Rowan Willis and his own Blue Movie surpassed the majority of the group to earn third place with a time of 76.95 seconds. Fitting for a world championship, the top three riders in the final standings after day one each call a country across three separate continents home – Europe, South America and Australia.
Ranked #9 in the Longines FEI World Rankings, Guerdat is no stranger to the winner’s circle in high-pressure international competition, having won the individual gold medal in show jumping at the 2012 Olympic Games in London in addition to the individual bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Competing for his native Switzerland, he impressively emerged victorious in back-to-back FEI World Cup™ Jumping competitions in 2015 and 2016, first in Las Vegas and later in Sweden. Together with Bianca, a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, Guerdat has topped the leaderboard multiple times throughout 2018, most notably in the Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Switzerland, where he tied for the top spot.
Riding for the home team of the United States, Devin Ryan was the first to tackle the course aboard longtime partner LL Show Jumpers LLC’s Eddie Blue. The pair are coming off of an impressive year of success that kicked off after winning the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping New York CSI4*-W in fall 2017 and placing second at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in France this spring. As the pathfinders for the American team, Ryan and the grey gelding turned in a quick time of 79.62 seconds, but clipped a rail to finish on a final time of 83.62 seconds. A newcomer to WEG and the youngest rider on the team, Adrienne Sternlicht directed Starlight Farms 1 LLC’s Cristalline to a similar ride, lowering a single fence to finish with a cumulative 84.86 seconds. A two-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist, Laura Kraut navigated Zeremonie, owned by Old Willow Farms LLC, to the team’s first clear trip of the day in 80.08 seconds, after which world-ranked #2 and multiple-time Olympic medalist McLain Ward and Clinta enhanced the U.S.’s overall performance with another clean ride in 78.49 seconds.
In the team standings, Switzerland nabbed the overnight lead thanks to Guerdat’s win, as well as two strong demonstrations by teammates Martin Fuchs and Janika Sprunger, who both finished within the top 20. Fuchs concluded the day in fifth position overall aboard Luigi Baleri’s Clooney, while Sprunger and Dufour Stables AG’s Bacardi VDL claimed 16th place. Spearheaded by world-ranked #1 Harrie Smolders with the seventh-place ride on Copernicus Stables LLC’s Don VHP Z N.O.P., the team from the Netherlands sits in second position, aidedninth-place place finish from Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Calimero. The Brazilian team just barely edged out the United States for third place, with Veniss and Quabri de L’Isle serving as the best-placing pair with their reserve honors. Of the total 25 teams, only ten will advance following the second portion of competition into the finale, meaning that the best-performing horses and athletes will have to remain consistent to qualify for a coveted spot in the third round of team riding.
Show jumping action will return Thursday for the second round of team and individual competition at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Once again doubling as a team round and individual qualifier, all pairs will step into the ring once more Thursday to vie for a top ten team slot in order to earn a place in Friday’s finals, when competitors will need to maintain their momentum to qualify for the individual grand finale comprised of the top 25 duos, held Sunday.
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Time
First Competition – Team and Individual Speed Round
1. Steve Guerdat / SUI / Bianca / Ellias Stud Farm / 76.33
2. Pedro Veniss / BRA / Quabri de l’Isle / C. Vennis, C. Daurella de Aguilera / 76.68
3. Rowan Willis / AUS / Blue Movie / Rowan Willis / 76.95
4. Marcus Ehning / GER / Pret A Tout / 77.08
5. Martin Fuchs / SUI / Clooney / Luigi Baleri / 77.69
6. Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo / COL / Admara / 77.96
7. Harrie Smolders / NED / Don VHP N.O.P. / Copernicus Stables LLC / 78.12
8. McLain Ward / USA / Clinta / McLain Ward, Sagamore Farms / 78.49
9. Lorenzo de Luca / ITA / Irenice Horta / 78.71
10. Marc Houtzager / NED / Sterrelhof’s Calimero / Stoeterij Sterrehof / 79.48
11. Karen Polle / JPN / With Wings / Karen Polle / 79.88
12. Laura Kraut / USA / Zeremonie / Old Willow Farms LLC / 80.08
12. Kevin Staut / FRA / Reveur de Hurtebise HDC / Haras Des Coudrettes / 80.08
2. The Netherlands
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Steve Guerdat – Team and Individual Speed Round, first place
On his round:
“To be honest, I feel like it was an advantage in a speed class to go at the end – it was a long day waiting. I was kind of confident because the course walked well. There was nothing crazy going on. There were fast, clear rounds, but nothing crazy fast. The fastest horses were not leaving [the top] so I thought if I stick to my plan I have a good chance to be in the top three today, and everything went really well. [Bianca] felt great. I really enjoyed my round and she felt like she really enjoyed jumping, so I can’t ask for much more from her today.”
On the course:
“The course designer did a super job. I have to say, the course was really fitting for my horse. The distances were forward for me, where some bigger-strided horses had to wait for the distance, losing time. There were not a lot of crazy options to take – a few times you could leave a stride out with the bigger horses but without losing time. The course was really good for my mare. That’s why I felt confident to really stick to my plan without doing anything I wasn’t comfortable with.”
Pedro Veniss – Team and Individual Speed Round, second place
On his ride today:
“The course was very difficult today. The course designer did a super job, I am very happy with my round today. My horse has given me good results before and today he did the same. He did a good job today and I really could trust him.”
Rowan Willis – Team and Individual Speed Round, third place
On his ride with Blue Movie:
“I always was hoping if everything went well, my plan was to be in the top five, and I knew my mare was more than capable of doing it for me. She’s naturally very fast, so I don’t have to worry about the time as long as I just keep it level and put her in a good spot. She always tries for me, and it was a nice result. We’re all pretty close there at the top, and just a couple more rounds to go.”
On Blue Movie:
“I always thought she was going to be incredible from the moment she landed on the ground. I always wanted to buy her as a foal, and finally my family and some owners got together and were able to get her. She’s been slightly difficult along the way, but I’ve always believed in her and the last couple of years she has really rewarded me.”
On his equestrian background:
“I’ve been in England 19 years. I’m from New South Wales [in Australia] originally. I started in Pony Club and I was meant to go to [university,] but after my gap year, I never made it. I moved to England. I was always selling horses and I wasn’t really in a position to keep them, but I really believed in this mare. You have to believe in your horse and hard work pays off. It’s a tough sport, and it is getting tougher nowadays with all the money involved but if you work hard and believe in your horse anything can happen. I’ve always had to sell horses before, and it is not easy when you don’t have sponsorships or family or whatever else behind but you, but if you stick to your guns and believe, hopefully, you can get there.”
McLain Ward (USA) – Team and Individual Speed Round, eighth place
On his performance with Clinta:
“She felt amazing. It’s been a long, hot day, and I knew we really needed a good score. If it were a jump-off I may have taken a little bit more risk in a few places, but today is a little bit of risk and reward. I made a little bit of an error to the water and ended up doing 9 [strides.] I probably should’ve stayed on 8 [strides], but I just didn’t trust it. She helped me out a bit, and I think she’s jumping great and the team is quite in the mix, so we’ll just keep grinding away. Overall, she felt spectacular. If anything, I’d say she’s a little high. She tries so hard and gives so much of herself. At 3ab she was trying to jump over the standards. She loses a little time in the air compared to a horse like Marcus [Ehning’s], who is very economical. That probably cost us a second or so, but I’m thrilled with the way she went. Most of her competitions up until now have been a couple of small classes and then a grand prix, so to have to come right in and jump a big track at full speed, with a sharp horse like her I just have to make sure I’m on the money.”
Laura Kraut (USA) – Team and Individual Speed Round, twelfth place
On her round with Zeremonie:
“I really enjoyed the course today. Alan Wade is a brilliant course designer and I think he’s done a wonderful job today. He’s got a couple of difficult questions, particularly the double up at the end, but I’m relieved to have finished and the mare was amazing. She stuck right to the plan apart from a little stumble in the last double. I had thought to go a bit quicker coming to the last line, but thought I should let her recover a second, so apart from that I was really happy. I’m cautiously optimistic that the three days in a row [of jumping] won’t really impress her too much. She should have hopefully maybe a tiny bit less energy than she did today.”
On the performance of the U.S. team:
“Both McLain and I have had multiple hours to sit around to concentrate and contemplate, and he actually recommended that I do the five [strides] after the double before the vertical to the water. I had thought to do four [strides,] but he was correct and that was great. He’s a super teammate and so are Devin and Adrienne. I think we’re looking good at the moment. We’ve all put up solid scores.”
Devin Ryan (USA)
On the course:
“Alan [Wade] made a great course and it was a fun course to ride. It had a lot of options and it was a long course for the first day, nothing too tasky or too hard for the horses to jump. There are some beautiful jumps out there. It’s always fun to go to a different venue and have different jumps, and I think that’s going to play a factor in some of it. I think my horse read that combination at the end of the ring and he just didn’t quite get the right read on it, and I think those rails are going to catch a lot of people.”
On being the first rider in the ring for the U.S.:
“Sitting in the stands, I felt [nervous] a little bit, but it was unbelievable when I got on that horse the confidence I have in him. I got on in the schooling area and all of that went away. I know all we have to do is go in and do what we’ve been working on all summer. To walk into that ring on him is like walking into any ring honestly; that’s just the confidence he gives me and I think he has that confidence in me, too. That’s probably a little bit because I’ve had him since he was such a young horse that we have that bond. It was a blast walking to the ring and having the whole American crowd cheering me on.”
On working with his U.S. teammates:
“McLain, Laura and Beezie have all been doing this for years and they’ve been such great supporters throughout the summer to me. We have a passion for our horses and we’re all in it for the same thing out here; none of us came here to lose. The most important thing to accomplish at the beginning of the week is to try to be here together as a team and put results together as a team to qualify for the Olympics. We’re trying to put together the results we all want, and it makes you feel really good walking out of the ring and to see them smiling at you and even telling you that you did a good job, even though I was upset I had the rail down earlier.”
Adrienne Sternlicht (USA)
On handling the pressure:
“I’ve been reading a book that talks about flow states, and I think I enter a flow state where I block everything else around me because the level of intensity I have in the ring. To cope with the pressure I have a major routine that I do back in the barn before I get on. I meditate, I drink this certain mushroom drink and I call my sports psychologist, so I pull out all of the stops. I’m not superstitious, but I’ve developed a ritual and I think routine gives comfort in an uncomfortable situation.”
On her tips from her coach, McLain Ward:
“I got a lot of tips [from him today]. He actually said something to me in Dublin that I wish he had said today. He said ‘I’m not asking for perfection, I’m asking for clarity’ and for me, that’s been one of my greatest takeaways right now in my riding — to be decisive about everything I do on course. I found that to be instrumental in staying on task.”
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