McLain Ward did it again and took his third win of the weekend; this time riding the 10-year-old mare HH Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) – a horse that calls for superlatives.
It was a tough course build by Uliano Vezzani for the Loro Piana Grand Prix City of Rome. Faults spread all over, but the triple combination, the vertical after the open water and the last fence caused some extra headache for riders and horses. Only seven riders – out of 50 – cleared the first round, but the twelve best went on to the winning round. First out for the second time around were the riders qualified with four faults – bringing on their penalties from the first round.
Colombia's Carlos Lopez was first to go with Admara (Padinus x Murano), and he had to add another four faults to his score ending on a total of eight faults. Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten and his faithful partner VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P. (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) on the other hand cleared the track, and climbed on the result list – finally ending 7th. Ireland's Billy Twomey riding Diaghilev (Vangelis S x Handstreich) also cleared the course after doing a safe round, while home rider Emilio Bicocchi with Ares (Ephebe For Ever x Rebel) had to see a pole fall when he went for it.
USA's Kent Farrington did a fast and clear round riding the bouncy Voyeur (Tolano van't Riethof x Goodwill), with a very short turn to the penultimate fence and ended round two on the second best time. But with the very last fence down in the first round, just like in Friday's second round of the Nations Cup, he had to settle for fifth place in the end. Germany's Marcus Ehning was unlucky to record a time penalty in the first round after some beautiful jumping, and the second time around he went for a safe clear round which was good enough for the 4th for him and the lovely stallion Cornado NRW (Cornet Obolensky x Acobat).
Corporal VDL (Cardento x Grosso Z) showed some impressive jumping in the first round, ridden by Sweden's Malin Baryard-Johnsson. In the winning round the two of them struggled on their way to the second fence, forcing a circle and time faults which put their score on 14 faults in the end.
Next out was USA's McLain Ward with HH Azur that both impressed with two breathtaking clear rounds in Friday's Nations Cup. As McLain said himself during the prize giving; "This wasn't my best jump-off ever, but luckily HH Azur saved me over and over again!" It was a very fast round, but on some occasions it looked like Ward changed his plan in the very last minute, adding a stride and not going for the first distance. Still, it was some amazing jumping the couple pulled off!
Jur Vrieling with VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P. (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) had to see the very last fence fall, pushing him down the ranks to 9th position. Laura Kraut didn't push the limits with the pretty inexperienced Zeremonie (Cero II x Quick Star), but with a clear round five seconds behind her compatriot Ward it was good enough for a 3rd place.
Sweden's Peder Fredricson on the other hand, went all in with H&M All In (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Andiamo Z) and made one stride less than everyone else to the last fence which the tiny gelding flew over like it was nothing. They couldn't do anything about the time from Ward though and ended in 2nd place, 1.6 seconds behind.
Sadly, Germany's Marco Kutscher had a horrible fall with the stallion Van Gogh (Numero Uno x Bernstein) on the third fence in the jump-off, and was picked up by an ambulance – which put a shadow on the competition in Rome.
Last to go was world no. one Simon Delestre with Hermes Ryan (Hugo Gesmeray SF x Ryon d'Anzex) and he did his best to take the victory. But after having one down in the middle of the course, the French rider slowed down a bit ending 6th leaving the victory with McLain Ward who had all the reason to smile after a fantastic weekend in Rome.
"Tonight she jumped incredible, while I could have done better… ," said Ward afterwards to the press. "There were a few points where I have been unsure and she just knew what had to be done. Sometimes this happens and that’s when you know a horse like this makes the difference. The course presented many challenges, it was very technical and it suited the level of the competition. I think Uliano Vezzani is one of the three best chef de piste in the world, and the course was just up to the level. I am very happy and I thank my team for making the horses be so fit and nice as this gives me all the confidence to enter the arena with maximum confidence."
Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson
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