For the second year in a row, Kent Farrington (USA) and Robin Parsky's Blue Angel emerged victorious in the $85,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Grand Prix CSI 3* during week six at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. Farrington and Blue Angel topped a nine-horse jump-off to defend their title, with Harrie Smolders (NED) and Don VHP Z second, and Ben Maher (GBR) aboard Valinski S third.
Under the lights of the International Ring at The Stadium at PBIEC Friday night, Richard Jeffery (GBR) set the track for 39 starters in the Salamander Hotels & Resorts Grand Prix, with nine moving on to the jump-off and six double clear rounds.
Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Angelstone Partners' Appy Cara jumped the first double clear in 43.07 seconds to finish fifth. Charlie Jacobs (USA) and CMJ Sporthorse LLC's Cassinja S went next with a clear round in 43.63 seconds to place sixth. Luis Pedro Biraben (ARG) briefly took the lead in 42.06 seconds with Abunola and ended in fourth. Up next, Harrie Smolders upped the pace with Copernicus Stables LLC's Don VHP Z in 39.64 seconds, but was immediately pushed into second when Farrington and Blue Angel stole the show with a blazing time of 38.85 seconds. The final clear round came from Ben Maher and Wyndmont's Valinski S, who jumped into third place in a time of 40.62 seconds.
"I think this style of venue really suits the horse and that's why I chose to ride her here again this year," Farrington said of his win with Blue Angel, a 13-year-old Anglo European mare (Luidam x Ascendant). "It's a small ring, more like an indoor arena. She is naturally fast and can add a stride very quickly."
"The ride in the jump-off with her really is not to let her get out of her comfort zone," Farrington noted. "Like going to the last fence, not to go too direct and try to go too fast, more just tone it down and hope that's enough for the class today. I think I was just on a faster horse. I thought Harrie's round was incredible. He turned so tight back to the vertical. He went to the whip going to the last fence and did seven strides. I don't think there was anything else Harrie could do. Luckily, my horse was a little faster today. My horse is also good at a rollback to a vertical like that. Harrie went inside from fence one to two, which was extreme. I didn't think I could do that and still jump the vertical well and do a short rollback, so I had to hedge my bet a little there at the start."
"All of us here are super competitive personalities," Farrington said of the competition. "These are some of the best riders in the world, and we are all out here trying to win all the time. I think that shows the strength of the competition here at WEF, when you see riders of this caliber all competing each weekend."
While some of Farrington's top mounts, such as Voyeur and Uceko, will rest this winter in preparation for the season ahead, the rider is bringing out some new horses for the circuit and using his other horses sparingly.
"I'm trying to use the circuit to develop some new horses and get them in the ring and using Blue Angel and horses like that if there's a certain venue or class that really suits them," Farrington explained. "The circuit is long, so it's a great way to build up a new horse. They can get comfortable in the ring and jump a little bigger than they normally could if you were going to a different place every single week, so I am trying to use that to my advantage."
For the horses that are showing, he acknowledged the nice change to compete in different rings across the show grounds at PBIEC, such as Friday's class at The Stadium.
"I think it's a great change of pace. I think using this ring and the field and maximizing the different venue opportunities that we have here in Wellington is great for the horses and a nice change of scenery for the riders," Farrington said.
For Harrie Smolders, Don VHP Z has had success on both sides of PBIEC this season, including a third place finish in week five's grand prix on the derby field last Sunday. He settled for second place Friday night, but was happy with another great round from 'Don'.
"I'm very pleased with him. Like I said last week, he is in very good shape and he jumped two grand prix double clear, so I think he is in a really good period at the moment," Smolders stated. "Normally, he is not so handy in such a small ring, but I tried to make the best out of it today and it was almost enough."
Third place finisher, Ben Maher, was aboard a brand new mount this week in Valinski S, and looks forward to working on his new partnership in the weeks ahead.
"We got the horse on Monday, so I literally jumped on and rode him once at home and then headed over here, so I'm pretty happy with this week," Maher expressed. "I think he is very suited to this ring. I don't know him a lot to compare to really, but he feels careful and quick. Maybe he needs to adjust to my riding a bit. There are a few things I want to work on."
Like Farrington, Maher is using this circuit to develop some of his up-and-coming horses and kept that in mind with his jump-off round and a brand new mount.
"It's a circuit where I am having to build horses this time instead of go for the win trying to go as quick as I can," Maher said. "I took my time a bit to the second fence and maybe to the last, and that's the difference in winning and coming in third. I'm on a tour doing what I can do, not what I can't, and hopefully putting the hours in will pay off. I am very happy with the first week (with Valinski). I have a couple horses that we're not intending to use in the bigger grand prix, so this helps my string for the next couple of months."
Source: Press release Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
1. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/0/38.85
2. DON VHP Z: 2004 Zangersheide stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Copernicus Stables LLC: 0/0/39.64
3. VALINSKI S: 2002 KWPN gelding by Nikinski x Julius BEN MAHER (GBR), Wyndmont: 0/0/40.62
4. ABUNOLA: 2005 KWPN mare by Numero Uno x Voltaire LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Luis Pedro Biraben: 0/0/42.06
5. APPY CARA: 2005 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Casco ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Angelstone Partners: 0/0/43.07
6. CASSINJA S: 2006 Zweibrücker mare by Carinjo x Cassini I CHARLIE JACOBS (USA), CMJ Sporthorse LLC: 0/0/43.63
7. WIRMA: 2003 KWPN mare by Hors La Loi III x Lux BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/4/41.69
8. ENTRE NOUS: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Conan Z x Ohio van de Padenborre LAUREN TISBO (USA), Tequestrian Farms LLC: 0/4/43.26
9. DOBRA DE PORCEYO: 2006 Warmblood mare by Action Breaker x Indorado SCHUYLER RILEY (USA), Wolfstone Stables: 0/4/45.73
10. SLIEVEANORRA: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 4/80.61
11. CASPER: 2006 Oldenburg gelding by Contender x Baloubet du Rouet ANDREW BOURNS (IRL), Andrew Bourns: 4/81.11
12. FLECU: 2004 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Hip Hop x Flamingo ALEXANDER ZETTERMAN (SWE), Alexander Zetterman: 4/81.42
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