Lexington, KY – It was a bit of a split day for the U.S. team with Mario Deslauriers and McLain Ward finishing in the first and second spots out of 121 riders. Lauren Hough had a rail and a foot in the water, and Laura Kraut had two rails today, putting them in the middle of the pack.
Team USA had a good plan coming in to today’s speed round, and it paid off.
“Yesterday our team had a meeting with George [Morris], and he said tomorrow morning when we walk the course you make a plan to try to win the class,” said Deslauriers. “We all know our horses. We know what we can do and what we can’t. That’s exactly how we all approached it this morning, and after I watched 30 horses or so I had my plan and it went pretty smoothly.”
Deslauriers thought top three was a good possibility for he and Urico, and he knew he laid down a pretty fast time. Deslauriers and Urico went earlier in the day and laid down a clean round with a score on the clock of just 71.25, and he maintained it the whole way.
“There were a lot of horses that were going to go after me,” he said. “When I went in the arena…the last time that I knew was winning was 76, so when I posted a 71 I thought I’d get top five for sure. After that you never know, and there were a lot of riders after me. My horse—I know he’s very quick. He looks a bit deceiving when you watch him go. You always hope it will hold all the way through. There are a lot of great horses and riders here. Either way I was very happy with him, and he jumped fantastic.”
Ward had a similar plan and hope for his team. He and Sapphire were the third to last to go today and nearly beat their teammate but still put in a stellar, clean round with a time of 71.79.
“My goal was top three today,” he said. “Obviously I was trying to win very hard, but Mario‘s horse is very fast. I knew that, and he’s also a very fast rider so I knew it was going to be tough to catch him. My goal was top three, and that put us in a good position for the week. It was a little bit of bad luck for Lauren and Laura, so I felt a little extra pressure to make sure we were pretty nestled there in the top.”
Kraut said Cedric became a little frazzled in the upper warm-up ring due to some other equine visitors.
“I had started my warm-up up there, and about four carriages came by at once and that just completely undid him unfortunately,” she said. “One of the main qualities I love about him is he’s like a Thoroughbred, but the bad quality about him is that once he’s lit up he’s hard to sort of settle back down. I tried moving down in to this warm-up area, but once he was lit he was lit. The mistake at fence 3—he would normally never run in to a fence like that. I’ve jumped about 50 rounds this year where he would never have had that, but when his brain is gone, then he’s just…basically I was trying to do damage control the whole way around. I didn’t control it well enough, because we still had two down. Tomorrow I think I won’t start out in the top schooling area for hopes that the carriages won’t be there and maybe we can keep him calm.”
Today’s Conrad Homfeld-designed course included 16 jumping efforts and a time allowed of 120 seconds. Only 22 riders were able to go clear on today’s “Nature of Kentucky” themed course.
The team from Hungary offered some impressive rounds today with Sandor Szasz and Moosbachhofs Goldwing finishing in the third spot after quite an impressive run.
Currently the U.S. team stands in first place with a total score of 5.69. Germany follows with 9.80, and France is third with a total score of 11.32.
The competition continues tomorrow at 10 a.m. with part 1 of the team competition.
Photos: Mario Deslauriers and McLain Ward Photos by Diana DeRosa