McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z take the first victory in Rome.

McLain Ward finished first, Lorenzo de Luca second and Simon Delestre third. (Photo by CsioRoma-MProli)

The American national anthem rang out across Piazza di Siena this afternoon when McLain Ward scorched home to win the 1.50m Jump-Off with HH Carlos Z. With 15 clears in the first round this was always going to be a difficult one to clinch, and the final standings boasted a list of competitors out of the very top drawer of the sport.

Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca filled runner-up position with Balou de Coeur Joye while world no. 1 rider, Simon Delestre from France, slotted into third with Utah D’Alguilly. Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr steered Casanova de L”Herse into fourth while World and European individual and team gold medallist, Jeroen Dubbeldam, finished fifth with Carusso la Silla.

Ward knows exactly which buttons to push when it comes to his 14-year-old gelding. “This was a great result for us on the first day. Carlos is a horse confirmed at this level, he’s a big jumper and he’s good in these kind of classes – he’s really fast” the American rider explained. He plans to compete HH Azur in tomorrow’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ presented by Longines.

Ward describes himself as “a second-generation rider” because his father also competed at Grand Prix level. He joked today that he himself is feeling “a bit old” because he first competed at Piazza di Siena 13 years ago, in 1993. He loves coming back every time. “I know Rome well and I like it a lot, the atmospherre and the beauty of the place is very special. I usually travel over a day early so I can enjoy being here” said the New Yorker.

Lorenzo de Luca talked about the 10yo stallion Balou who he started riding in early 2015 after he began working at Stephex Stables in Belgium. “He’s very consistent, competitive and coming along well” the Italian rider said. “No-one thought he would reach this level” he added.

Asked how it feels to watch his former ride, Elky van het Indihof HDC, being ridden by Frenchman Kevin Staut this week, de Luca responded, “the objective of a training stables is to sell horses on, so to see one that started with me (competing at this level) means I did a good job and I’m proud of that!” He pointed out that he has a great group of talented horses in his string, and he’s looking forward to competing with Ensor de Litrange in tomorrow’s Nations Cup. “Ensor is a horse that suits me well, he’s intelligent and reliable which is exactly what you need for a team competition” he said.

De Luca is in a good place right now thanks to the progression he made during his career to date, but that is no accident. He remains grounded, regardless of success. “I have climbed to this level of the sport step by step. I never rush things, I like to go slowly and I believe I took the right path to get where I am” he said.

Results

Source: CSIO Roma