Lorenzo de Luca brought CSIO Rome - Masters d’Inzeo 2018 to the perfect conclusion at Piazza di Siena today when clinching victory for the host nation in the Rolex Grand Prix. It’s been 24 years since the last Italian rider, Arnaldo Bologni, held the coveted trophy aloft, and the crowd went wild with excitement when de Luca steered Halifax van het Kluizebos through the timers to clinch it in the 13-horse jump-off.
The result also marked the twelfth time for Italy to win both the Nations Cup and Grand Prix in the 86-year history of CSIO Rome. This last time this happened was in 1976 when the team consisted of the legendary Piero and Raimondo d’Inzeo, Graziano Mancinelli and Vittorio Orlandi, and it was Piero who claimed the Grand Prix title with Easter Light.
Fourth-last to go against the clock today, 31-year-old de Luca, who hails from Puglia in the south of Italy, had a tense wait after setting the target-time at 45.37 seconds. However when Portugal’s Luciana Diniz took her foot off the gas after lowering two fences with Fit for Fun and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander opted for a careful clear round with Inca Boy van t’Vianahof then he only had to worry about the final competitor, Bertram Allen.
But the Irishman is notoriously fast, and the home crowd held their breath as he raced around Uliano Vezzani’s track, foot to the floor as he came down to the final Rolex oxer with the grey Hector van D’Abdijhoeve who, characteristically threw a huge buck to celebrate a great round. He wasn’t quite fast enough however, the clock showing 45.97 seconds which slotted him into runner-up spot ahead of Tops-Alexander in third.
Lorenzo insisted that his victory today was created by the new-found team spirit amongst Italian riders. “When the Italian team won the Nations Cup on Friday, I felt like if it was also my victory and it was incredible. I helped my team mates on Friday, I was in the warm up arena and I walked the course with them, I tried to give them advice and I did so only because I felt part of a team with great connections. Each one of us contributes to the improvement of the others.
Winning in Rome is obviously very special to me. Every week we travel so far and we always try to win, but of course coming here and trying to win and then actually succeeding, our emotions get so much deeper. Last year we almost did it and now we did it and this is special.“
Although having to settle for runner-up spot, 22-year-old German-based Irishman Allen was delighted with the performance of his playful grey stallion. “I’ve had Hector now for a few years, he’s an unbelievable jumper, he can do anything, but sometimes he has a bit of a difficult character. At the end of last year it wasn’t going so good for us, so we slowed down and started again and did a few smaller Grand Prix and smaller shows. The Rolex show in Windsor two weeks ago was his first bigger Grand Prix again, he was already clear there, so I thought super - I should be on form for Rome now!”
He was right about that, but today’s hero was Lorenzo de Luca who goes into the CSIO Roll of Honour as the 23rd Italian winner of this most prestigious title which dates all the way back to 1926. Ph. CsioRoma-MGrassia