Deslauriers and Urico stopped the clock after a clear round in 71.25 seconds. Ward and Sapphire, riding almost five hours later in the field of 121 horses, fell just short, in 71.79 seconds.
Sandor Szasz of Hungary, who is competing in his first international championship and has never placed in a major international competition before, surprised his competitors and the roaring crowd in the Rolex Arena by urging Moosbachhofs Goldwing through the finish in 73.24 seconds.
The US team holds the early lead, with 5.69 faults. Germany is second (9.8 faults), France is third (11.32), the Netherlands is fourth (11.33), Canada is fifth (11.93), and Spain is sixth (13.22).
"I had a really nice lunch - my part was over," said Deslauriers, who rode just before the lunch break. "When I posted a 71, I thought I'd be in the top five, for sure, but I knew there were a lot of top riders after me."
Deslauriers, 45, is riding on his first US team since changing his nationality from Canadian to American last year. He had been a mainstay of Canadian teams since the 1984 Olympics. "I had been living in the US and had my business here for 24 years, and then I married Lisa and started to ride for Jane Clark, who is very involved in the sport and the US team. It was the right time to finish the change to becoming an American," said Deslauriers.
Ward, 34, said that he and his teammates had come to the Kentucky Horse Park for one reason.
"[Chef d'Equipe] George Morris told us when we walked the course to make a plan to win the class, and that's exactly how we rode our horses," he said.
Although Lauren Hough and Laura Kraut each had 8 faults, to finish 41st and 49th, Morris said that his team had performed according to his plan. "Being here, in our own country, I didn't gather them together for training [before the World Games]. They had all been competing and training well on their own, and I felt it was better not to get them out of their rhythm. I always follow my instincts," he said.
Ward praised the course designed by Conrad Homfeld, assisted by Richard Jeffery. "Conrad did a masterful job. It's a very difficult competition to build for because there is such a range of ability. It was careful and scopey, but it didn't get messy," he said.
The 13-fence course asked plenty of questions and the bogey fences included the double at four, a triple-bar to vertical, the open water at fence seven which claimed a large number of scalps, the unusual Kentucky Fence Line double at 10, an oxer to vertical of planks which was located just past the in-gate, and the final Rolex double. The second element of the latter fell time and again, often as a result of a complicated stride pattern created by the previous liverpool oxer, and one its many victims was Frenchman Kevin Staut whose mare, Silvana de Hus, slammed on the brakes so that he had to re-present her. As a result, the No. 1 rider on the Rolex World Rankings is lying way down in 70th position going into tomorrow's next stage of the Championship.
World No. 2, Germany's Marcus Ehning, is much further up the order in 28th spot, adding four time penalties to his score when hitting fence five, the Mountain Range vertical which was followed on a short three-stride distance by the Natural Arch. World No. 6, Ireland's Denis Lynch, had a spectacular moment here when fifth into the ring as his gelding, Lantinus, became airborne after two strides and crashed through the Natural Arch wall, completely demolishing it.
Third placegetter Sandor Szasz said that he had felt confident before he rode. "I thought I would do well. I am happy with my placing and with my team's placing, because we only have three riders because one of our horses was sold just before the World Games began," he said. The Hungarian team placed 11th (16.28 faults) today.
"Toward the end of the course I felt comfortable going faster, and now I am sitting here next to these two famous riders, and I have ridden with them today. I feel a lot of pride in that," added Szasz.
Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze was the final Canadian rider into the stadium and posted the team's best result. Despite adding a four-second penalty to his time following a rail down at fence nine, Lamaze's time of 76.03 seconds placed him eighth among the field of 121 horses.
"I am not sure what happened, it is not a fence I would normally have to worry about," said Lamaze of the downed rail with Hickstead, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion. "Some days you have a little rub and it stays up, but today it came down."
Of his overall performance Lamaze noted, "You want to do well and be in the top group, and stay within four faults of the leader. For me to have gone any faster would not have been a good strategy."
Lamaze is competing in his fifth consecutive World Equestrian Games despite have a broken bone in his left foot. Despite undergoing surgery in July, Lamaze requires a second surgery immediately following the World Equestrian Games.
"It doesn't bother me in the ring when the adrenaline is running high, but it bothers me after," said Lamaze of his injury. "I just have to concentrate on landing with my weight more on my right side than the other."
The top ten includes Venezuela's Pablo Barrios who was so fast with G&C Lagran that even with the four faults he picked up at the same fence as Ehning he still managed fourth place in a time of 73.42, and he is followed by Saudi Arabia's Khaled Al Eid (Presley Boy), The Netherlands' Marc Houtzager (HBC Tamino) and Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum riding Checkmate. 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze is next in line with Hickstead in eighth place and only 2.39 points separate him from Deslauriers at the head of affairs.
The US team has a fence in hand going into tomorrow's first leg of the team competition with Germany's Ehning and Michaels-Beerbaum, Janne-Friederike Meyer (Cellagon Lambrasco) and Carsten-Otto Nagel (Corradina) in second and, despite Staut's dramatic round, France lie third ahead of The Netherlands in fourth, Canada in fifth and Spain in sixth place.
The team competition continues tomorrow, starting at 10am. The top 10 teams after Tuesday's competition will go forward to the team final on Wednesday night.
Today's competition was also the first individual qualifying competition. The Tuesday and Wednesday team competitions are also individual qualifiers, and the top 30 riders after Wednesday will go forward to the final qualifying round on Friday night. After that, the top four riders will contest the individual final, where they will ride each other's horses, on Saturday night.
120 horse and rider combinations lined out in today's first Jumping qualifier
Faults from today's class are turned into points and carried into tomorrow's team competition The bogey fences on the track were the double at fence four, the open water at fence 7, the Kentucky Fence Line double at 10 and the final Rolex double.
It is the first time for riders from the Republic of South Africa to compete in World Championship Jumping.
27 nations are fielding teams
22 riders jumped clear
The USA's Mario Deslauriers (Urico) and McLain Ward (Sapphire) finished first and second but with faults turned into points it is Deslaurier, who produced the quickest round of the day, who holds pole position.
The USA leads the team rankings going into tomorrow's competition with Germany in second and France in third.
Today's attendance was 31,246.
Individual: 1, Urico (Mario Deslauriers) USA 0; 2, Sapphire (McLain Ward) USA 0.27; 3, Moosbachhofs Goldwing (Sandor Szasz) HUN 0.99; 4, G&C Lagran (Pablo Barrios) VEN 1.08; 5, Presley Boy (Khaled Al Eid) KSA 1.20; 6, HBC Tamino (Marc Houtzager) NED 1.74; 7, Checkmate (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 1.79; 8, Hickstead (Eric Lamaze) CAN 2.39; 9, Uleika (Karim El Zoghby) EGY 2.51; 10, Chianto (John Pearce) CAN 2.70.