It was with a touch of redemption that Kent Farrington secured a big international win for the United States on the closing day of the 88th annual Discover Ireland Royal Dublin Horse Show CSIO5* in Ireland. And it wasn’t just because of his 2nd place finish in the 2014 edition of this same Grand Prix, when Bertram Allen and Molly Malone outran he and Uceko.
No, Farrington’s sweeping victory in the €200,000 Longines International Grand Prix of Ireland was much more than just another example of his dominance at the top of international show jumping. After a rocky couple of days for the American riders at Dublin, bringing this particular trophy back to the Team USA stable row raised the spirits of everyone representing and cheering for the stars and stripes this week in Dublin.
Farrington and his veteran partner Uceko, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Celano x Koriander) owned by RCG Farm, completed a very tough Round One track constructed by Alan Wade that saw only 8 out of 40 starters jump clear, and proceeded to fly to an unbeatable 43.14 seconds in the jump-off.
Trouble for most began early on in Round One, with a tough triple bar at fence two, riding five or six strides to a 1.60m plank vertical on flat cups. Faults at those two fences contributed to eight riders retiring on course, including Irish hero Cian O’Connor, and Saturday evening’s Puissance winner, Sameh el Dahan.
“The triple bar is always a funny jump, because you’re hoping they’ll get up in the air and land shallow, and sometimes you land more into the line than you’d like,” explained 2nd placed finisher Kevin Babington. “For me, I knew when I landed, I was in a good position to jump the plank.”
“Alan is one of the best course designers in modern show jumping. Today was no exception, and I thought that the Nations Cup on Friday was also excellent,” Farrington added. It was true that the courses Wade built all week had all the well balanced elements of technicality, height, and time to create a top level of sport.
Back to the Grand Prix, the jump-off round didn’t let off on the pressure. Bertram Allen and Romanov, who on Friday played a big part in securing Ireland’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup win at Dublin, returned for the Round Two track, as did this year’s Leading International and National rider at Dublin, Conor Swail.
But Allen lost control of Romanov in a turn away from the in-gate and suffered a rare run-out in the jump-off to finish in 7th. As the pathfinder in both rounds, Swail served up a textbook jump-off round in 46.35 seconds with Vanessa Mannix’s nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Grand Cru V. Vijf Eiken (Contact van de Heffnick x Heartbreaker). He finished 3rd, with fellow Irishman Kevin Babington slotting into 2nd place aboard Shorapur (Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II) in 45.75 seconds.
Farrington was the first to note that show jumping is a game of staying focused and
moving on to the next day. He didn’t make Friday’s Nations Cup team after Blue Angel was eliminated on course during a warm-up class early in the week (Team USA went on to finish last place in the Nations Cup and didn’t lead a victory gallop all week.) And while Uceko warmed up well for Sunday’s Grand Prix with a double clear and top five finish in Saturday’s ranking class, Farrington acknowledged the unpredictable, inherently challenging nature of the sport.
“[Blue Angel] didn’t go very well here, and it’s gone great [with her] in the past but that’s part of being a pro, being able to stay focused and move on to the next day,” Farrington detailed. “That’s also part of show jumping. You can go from hero to zero in a second, and maintaining your composure and staying focused, that’s what the job is all about.”
Of course, coming out the hero is always the goal, and Farrington, who carefully plots Uceko’s show schedule, set his horse up for success in a venue that he knew the grey gelding would take to.
“I try to really manage his schedule so that he shows at only the places he likes,” Farrington said. “He loves grass rings and big jumps, so I just try to pick those Grand Prixs. He’s really a special horse and I feel lucky to have him in my stable. A special thank you to the owners, RCG Farm, and all of my supporters really. I have a great team of people behind me in my career, and that’s why we’re here today.”
“We’re in North America a lot, and we come up against Kent a lot,” added 3rd placed rider Swail. “So it’s no surprise at all that he’s coming here and winning. He’s a winning machine; he doesn’t know how to lose, to be honest. It’s very difficult when he’s in a class and he gets it all right.”
For his part, Swail got most of his week perfectly right – from his double clear in Sunday’s
jump-off that earned him a podium position in the Grand Prix, to his various top finishes and wins, including in Saturday’s €14,000 JLT Stakes with Simba de La Roque, earning him the prestigious Leading Rider titles at Dublin.
Prestige held a special meaning at the Dublin Horse Show. From the full brass band that paraded into the arena for the final international class, to the trophy presentations, the formally dressed officials, and the nation’s sitting President of Ireland in attendance, this competition holds its own particular level of honor among the busy international show jumping calendar. A final note on the day was this: Farrington became the eighth American in history to win the Grand Prix of Ireland – the first being George H. Morris in 1958. There’s not much more of a prestigious path to follow than that.
Find full results of the €200,000 Longines International Grand Prix of Ireland here.