WELLINGTON, Fla,--Lucy Deslauriers of New York, N.Y., at just 18 years of age clinched the biggest victory of her career on Thursday , March 29 in the $132,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 12 riding her own Hester.
After coming back from a shoulder injury and surgery on her hand at the end of 2017, Deslauriers returned to the saddle during week four of WEF.
She won over a field of 63, a whopping 27 of which were clean, in Thursday’s class and qualified for Saturday night’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*.
Five of the 27 clean elected not to return, setting the stage for a 22-horse jump-off.
Returning in the latter half of the sizeable field, Deslauriers and Hester, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, stopped the jump-off timers in a blistering 34.70 seconds.
LESS THAN a second off the pace in 35.26 seconds, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny was bumped to second place riding Babalou 41, and fellow Irishman Shane Sweetnam rounded out the top three in 35.71 seconds aboard Chaqui Z.
“My round actually wasn’t exactly what our plan was,” said Deslauriers. “I got down the first line a little earlier than I expected and that changed the turn to the next jump a little bit. Everything was connected in the first round as well as the jump-off; one line directly affected the next. But, Hester is naturally super fast, and even when I had to add one more stride here or there he was right there with me. He is the best and I am so lucky to have him.
“In the beginning, I tried to keep my foot speed up, but there were two places where I tried to make up the time,” said Deslauriers. “I did the six strides after the double to the oxer at fence number one and then I really galloped afterwards and turned quite sharp back on the vertical.”
“It is the longest I had ever gone without riding," said Deslauriers of being sidelined for two months. "It definitely took me a lot longer to get back feeling normal in the saddle than I thought. I just had to be patient and let my body tell me when it was ready for me to jump big jumps again. We made this plan about three or four weeks ago and I was really aiming for this class.
Deslauriers trains with her father, Mario, but has also been getting help from two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward over the last several weeks.
“Sometimes it’s nice to hear things from a little different perspective, so it’s nice to have him in my corner, but obviously I still have my dad and having both of them is really special,” she said. “We were all super excited. Given my injury and taking a little more time than we thought getting back to normal, we have been waiting for something big like this.”