Hard work and –more than anything– careful patience paid off for American rider Peter Lutz last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. The East Coast-based professional picked up his biggest career victory to date when he won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League Qualifier CSI3* aboard Robin de Ponthual.
When Lutz teamed up with trainer Michael Meller’s E2 Show Jumpers and owner Katherine Gallagher two years ago, it completed the necessary trifecta for success in today’s sport. The 41-year-old rider already had the competitive drive and the talent (two legs of the trifecta), and with their support (the third leg), Lutz was able to partner with the right horses and start pointing towards big goals.
A working relationship with a top rider also played an important part. Lutz’ home barn is just five houses away from McLain Ward’s storied Castle Hill Farm in North Salem, New York. The two riders are around the same age and they often work together, with Ward making space for a few of Lutz’ overflow horses to board, and Lutz helping with some riding when Ward is on the road.
That’s how Lutz came across Robin de Ponthual, a 10-year-old Selle Francis stallion (Elf D’Or x Calypso D’Herbiers*Ecolit). While showing in Europe in the summer of 2014, Ward had noticed “Robin”, and brought him home as a grand prix prospect. Once at Castle Hill, Lutz picked up the reins, connected with the horse right away.
“I rode Robin at McLain’s, I took him to some shows, and loved him,” Lutz says. “We were able to purchase him with great owners whose interest is in developing really good horses, and who is excited with the process.”
That process started out this year during winter season, with steady rounds at the 1.40m and 1.45m level. Robin had jumped some grand prixs in Europe, but Lutz wasn’t interested in rushing to the big classes before he had a close partnership with the stunning bay stallion. He used the summer to build confidence in that growing partnership, and by the time the American Gold Cup rolled around this fall, Lutz was ready, and confident that his horse had the scope and heart to move up.
They finished 4th in the American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*-W and picked up another white ribbon a month later in the Grand Prix CSI2* at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“After we did so well at the Gold Cup, we were just trying to identify another World Cup Class we could do,” Lutz explains when asked about the decision to fly West for Las Vegas. “Although it was far and a bit of a journey, it would be exciting for everyone, and good experience for the horse. And it couldn’t have had a better ending.”
Lutz is familiar with the West Coast circuit, having worked with Mary Manfredi for a decade as private trainers to Californians Audrey and Saer Coulter. But he hadn’t competed in California for a few years, and for that reason alone the trip was worth it to him.
“I love being on the West Coast, the Blenheim shows are so great, so it was nice to return and go back and see people,” he added.
Gallagher and Meller, who co-own Robin together, were on hand in Vegas, and Lutz’
students were watching back home in New York. “My students reminded me, you almost win before you win,” Lutz said. “Before Vegas, we’d been in the ribbons and we’d been close, and we were confident.”
It was confidence that earned him World Cup points in Las Vegas; with eight in the jumpoff and half of those going double clear, Lutz had to stick to his plan and take the needed risks to break the time barrier in the quickest time. And yes, there was luck involved – the runner up was none other than his former student Audrey Coulter, and she finished just a quarter second off his time.
Now back in New York before making the annual winter pilgrimage to Florida, Lutz will be targeting the final World Cup Qualifier classes offered in February 2016 in Wellington and Ocala. At 9th in the North American East Coast League standings, he has some climbing to do, but a trip to the 2016 World Cup Final in Sweden is now firmly on the radar.