The USA’s Kent Farrington, quite literally, stuck the landing to win the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Grand Prix at the American Gold Cup CSI4*-W on Sunday, September 18thin North Salem, NY, USA. Farrington capped off the only double clear performance of the class by landing on his feet with one rein in hand after being unseated from the saddle several strides after crossing the timers of the jump off.
“She spooked at something,” laughed Farrington about his mount Gazelle’s abrupt stop that prompted his unexpected tumble. “I finished the round and I thought, ‘ok that’s over’, and I leaned forward to give her a pet on the neck and canter around the pond, and she had a different idea to turn and go back to the gate. So we compromised with a front flip and a bow!”
Farrington’s dramatic winning style was the exclamation point on a Grand Prix that had its fair share of thrills and spills.
Ireland’s Alan Wade, a course designer well versed in designing for the varying terrain of the grass Grand Prix field at Old Salem Farm, created a challenging 13 obstacle track with a time allowed of 84 seconds. Implementing a massive triple combination early on in the course and multiple jumping efforts with related distances kept riders engaged at every stride.
“You start with the field, which isn’t totally level, so that made the course more difficult to ride,” explained Farrington. “And you have some of the oxers going uphill, so they ride wider, and much bigger than they’re set. And the vertical coming downhill is naturally going to draw the horse in a little bit closer and throw them off balance. So that was already a difficult factor that we don’t see every day. That, coupled with a short time allowed, and both combinations being on a short distance made it hard to jump.”
Finding difficulty on course early in the order was Great Britain’s Amanda Derbyshire, who was eliminated after having two refusals coming downhill to the vertical at fence seven. The first clear round of the class was produced by Lauren Tisbo but a single time fault ended her day on 85.46 seconds. Tisbo and her nine-year-old Coriandolo di Ribano (Cassini II x Calido) would finish in 3rd.
“It’s a young horse I have, I just got him in the middle of February. This was a big step up for him, so I was very happy with his round today,” said Tisbo.
Charlie Jacobs and the talented Cassinja S (Carinjo x Cassini I) would enter the ring soon after Tisbo as the 8th pair in the order and ride clear, delivering a score that wouldn’t be matched for another twenty-seven trips.
Giving a valiant effort, Laura Kraut and the nine-year-old Confu (Contact Me x Cambridge) would also have their clear round marked by a time fault. Clocking in at 86.69 seconds, Laura and Confu would later finish in 4th place behind Tisbo.
Saturday’s winner Catherine Tyree returned to the field, this time with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood Enjoy Louis, but her chance at a spot in the jump-off also quickly came to an end picking up faults at the C element of the triple combination and the B element of the double.
Along with both combinations, the skinny vertical at fence twelve and the Hermes oxer at fence ten gridlocked the likes of McLain Ward, Todd Minikus and Richie Moloney, who was unable to defend his 2015 American Gold Cup title.
Canada’s Keean White concluded his four fault round in a fashion that would come to foreshadow Farrington’s, when he fell off the side of nine-year-old mount Corette (Lupicor x Clinton) moments after crossing the timers.
Wrapping up the last few riders of the field, Farrington’s fault-free trip in 80.81 seconds meant that only two of the original athletes of the 40 starters would advance to the tiebreaker. Jacobs was first to return but lost the chance to boast a double clear round with a pole down on course. Jacobs completed the jump-off track in 48.69 seconds to set the pace should Farrington have a rail.
With the knowledge that the win would be his if he just went clear, Farrington opted for a steadier pace. Clear through the timers in a slower 53.18 seconds, Farrington seized the win.
Despite the abrupt displacement from his saddle in Sunday’s main event, Farrington understands that Gazelle’s quirks are a small price to pay for a horse that continually proves her ability to win.
The now ten-year old Belgian Warmblood mare (Kashmir van Shuttershof x Indoctro) came under Farrington’s care at the age of seven. Since then, their partnership has continued to grow. The pair had a successful Spruce Meadows Summer Series with wins in both the CSI5* ‘National’ and ‘Continental’ Tournaments and most recently, winning the Prize Notenstein La Roche Private Bank AG at the Longines St. Moritz CSI5*.
“She’s a really special horse, a lot of my horses are like that–I try to find horses that are really careful and I think that makes them a bit skittish, and sometimes a little bit funny about anything moving fast or anything that looks a bit different to them,” Farrington detailed. “That’s their quality and that’s what makes them great and able to win a big class.”
As part of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League, Sunday’s Grand Prix provided riders with an opportunity to gain valuable points for the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha, Nebraska. Farrington’s win has placed him tied for second place at twenty points with fellow countryman Johnathon McCrea in the overall Eastern Sub-League standings.
When asked if he’ll be making a bid for the World Cup Final, Farrington admits that with the right partner, he’d be willing to give it a fair shot.
“This year, especially with it being in the United States, I’d like to go, if I feel I have a horse that’s on form at that time,” he said. “I’ve been to the World Cup Final a few times and I really only want to go if I can be a contender, but I’d like to plan on going.”
Charlie Jacobs also has a reason to consider working towards a World Cup Final appearance. The points from Sunday’s 2nd place finish have moved him to the number one ranking in the Eastern Sub-League standings, six points ahead of McCrea and Farrington.
“I didn’t know I was number one on the list!” said an excited Jacobs.
Jacobs and Cassinja S also had a banner summer competing in Calgary, having another second place finish during the ‘Continental’ Tournament at Spruce Meadows in June and second place in the $300,000 Hampton Classic CSI4* Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic just two weeks ago.
“This was the third class this summer that she’s been 2nd in. That speaks to her consistency, but I’m also getting a bit of a bridesmaid complex,” he said.
Amidst the challenging track and an unanticipated fall, winning at Old Salem is a special accomplishment and a goal now achieved for Kent Farrington.
“I thought Alan Wade built a difficult course today,” he said. “I think it was well-suited for a class of this prestige, and that kind of prize money. It attracts world class riders and top horses, so it worked out for me to win today, but regardless of that I thought it was a great competition, and I’m thrilled to finally win the American Gold Cup. I’ve never done that before and that was on my list of things to do.”
See the full results of the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Grand Prix at this link.