|Mario Deslauriers (USA) riding Urico. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
Lexington, Ky., Oct. 4, 2010 — U.S. riders Mario Deslauriers, on Urico, and McLain Ward, on Sapphire, set the pace in the first leg of the team competition at the Jumping World Championships, presented by Rolex. Their performance led the U.S. team to the top of the team rankings, with two more days of team jumping to go at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
|Mario Deslauriers (USA) Urico (©Dirk Caremans)|
Sandor Szasz of Hungary, who is competing in his first international championship and has never placed in a major international competition before, surprised his competitors and the roaring crowd in the Rolex Arena by urging Moosbachhofs Goldwing through the finish in 73.24 seconds.
|Sandor Szasz (HUN) riding Moosbachhofs Goldwing. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
The U.S. team holds the early lead, with 5.69 faults. Germany is second (9.8 faults), France is third (11.32), the Netherlands is fourth (11.33), Canada is fifth (11.93), and Spain is sixth (13.22).
|Sandor Szasz (HUN) riding Moosbachhofs Goldwing (© Dirk Caremans)|
Deslauriers, 45, is riding on his first U.S. team since changing his nationality from Canadian to American last year. He had been a mainstay of Canadian teams since the 1984 Olympics. “I had been living in the U.S. and had my business here for 24 years, and then I married Lisa and started to ride for Jane Clark, who is very involved in the sport and the U.S. team. It was the right time to finish the change to becoming an American,” said Deslauriers.
Ward, 34, said that he and his teammates had come to the Kentucky Horse Park for one reason. “[Chef d’Equipe] George Morris told us when we walked the course to make a plan to win the class, and that’s exactly how we rode our horses,” he said.
|McLain Ward (USA) rides Sapphire (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
Although Lauren Hough and Laura Kraut each suffered 8 faults, to finish 41st and 49th, Morris said that his team had performed according to his plan. “Being here, in our own country, I didn’t gather them together for training [before the World Games]. They had all been competing and training well on their own, and I felt it was better not to get them out of their rhythm. I always follow my instincts,” he said.
Ward praised the course designed by Conrad Homfeld, assisted by Richard Jeffery. “Conrad did a masterful job. It’s a very difficult competition to build for because there is such a range of ability. It was careful and scopey, but it didn’t get messy,” he said.
Szasz said that he had felt confident before he rode. “I thought I would do well. I am happy with my placing and with my team’s placing, because we only have three riders because one of our horses was sold” just before the World Games began, he said. The Hungarian team placed 11th (16.28 faults) today.
“Toward the end of the course I felt comfortable going faster, and now I am sitting here next to these two famous riders, and I have ridden with them today. I feel a lot of pride in that,” added Szasz.
|McLain Ward (USA) and Sapphire (©Dirk Caremans)|
Today’s competition was also the first individual qualifying competition. The Tuesday and Wednesday team competitions are also individual qualifiers, and the top 30 riders after Wednesday will go forward to the final qualifying round on Friday night. After that, the top four riders will contest the individual final, where they will ride each other’s horses, on Saturday night.
Today’s attendance was 31,246.
|Mario Deslauriers (USA) riding Urico, winner of the Speed Competition. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|