Oct. 5 Lexington, Ky.
The U.S. riders caught a poorly timed case of that dreaded show jumping plague, the four-faultitis, today at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. No American rider put a clear round on the board, and they dropped from first to third. “None of our rubs went our way today,” said McLain Ward.
It’s nail-bitingly close at the top of the team standings. Just one rail separates first from seventh after Round 1 of the Nations Cup team competition has concluded. It was an extremely tense day in the show jumping ring, with lots of drama.
As of today, Germany has taken over the lead with 17.80 faults to their name. Brazil lies second, with 18.49 faults, and the U.S has dropped to third, with 18.69 faults. Canada lurks in fourth with 18.93 faults. The seventh-placed team, Australia, has 21.87 faults to their name—just a smidge more than a rail’s difference. Round 2 tomorrow night will be a real battle!
In other news, Saudi Arabian rider Khaled Al Eid has taken over the lead in the individual standings today aboard Presley Boy, a horse he bought just this summer. Mexican rider Jaime Azcarraga used to ride the powerful black stallion.
Not Quite How They Planned
Lauren Hough had to lead off the whole day’s events today as first rider on course. She and Quick Study were clean until the last, but felled the front rail there. Conrad Homfeld built a masterful course today, and the last line was a true challenge. Homfeld built an oxer leading to either a long four or a very short five strides to an extremely tight oxer-vertical two-stride combination. Then, riders had to accelerate again for six strides on a bending line to the last oxer. Hough had the last oxer down and a time fault to lead off the U.S. effort.
“I was a bit cautious of the time allowed, because I knew it would be tight. I maybe should have pushed a bit more for it,” she said. “He went a bit too far to the right on the way to the last and just touched the front rail.”
Mario Deslauriers went second for the U.S. He was delayed a bit when Urico pulled a shoe in warm-up, but said he felt ready going into the ring. “It was really no problem; I don’t think it affected him,” Deslauriers said. But Urico just barely stepped on the tape on the far side of the water for 4 faults. “He drifted left over the wall, and that kind of put me off my track for the water [which was next off a bending line],” Deslauriers said. “He tried really hard to jump the water clean. We must have just touched it.”
Urico turned himself inside out to jump clean through the really tight two-stride combination at the end of the course that caused a lot of problems, but then dropped a rail at the last oxer. Deslauriers said it was just an unlucky rail, that Urico overjumped the front rail a bit and cut down on the back rail. His 8 faults today dropped him from first in the individual standings to 22nd.
Laura Kraut also had an uncharacteristic rail on Cedric. She said he felt much more settled in the warm-up, after having been rattled by four-in-hand carriages driving by yesterday, but he toppled the rail at the B element of the triple. “He’s normally really good at triple combinations, so maybe I should have helped him a bit more, but he was really smooth and jumped well,” Kraut said. “With Nations Cups, you almost rather one rider have a complete disaster and the rest go clean than what we’re doing now, 4 faults after 4 faults.”
Unfortunately, team anchor, McLain Ward, didn’t buck the trend. The crowd stamped their feet and cheered loudly, but Sapphire just brushed the front rail of an oxer and it fell. It was a fence that didn’t cause much trouble on an otherwise difficult course. “It wasn’t a fence I was concerned about, but I had to ride her really strongly at the water jump, since she’s not usually very impressed by the water and horses had been having faults there all day,” Ward said. “She was still a little too strong when I got to that oxer [two jumps after the water], and I simply got too close to it. I can’t fault her; I just got too close.” The rail dropped Ward from second individually to ninth.
Anything Can Happen Tomorrow
To show just how close the standings are, think about the fact that when Eric Lamaze, the last rider for Canada, went into the ring, a clear round would have confirmed second place spot for them. But Lamaze and Hickstead crossed the timers just a shade too late, and picked up 1 time fault. The 1 penalty dropped the Canadian team to fourth in the standings, just .24 points behind the U.S. Lamaze took a lot of time to get Hickstead’s enthusiastic gallop under control for the last line.
“I couldn’t go any faster to the last line. If that’s where I got the time fault, I’m OK with it, because if I’d gone faster, I would have had a rail down,” Lamaze said. “That line was really difficult for my horse, all built on half-strides. This course was incredibly technical and careful. This course wasn’t so much a test of scope, but a real test of rider ability.”