America’s Kent Farrington (Wellington, FL) took top honours for the second night in a row at the 90th Royal Horse Show, closing out the International jumper division with a win in the $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge. Farrington was awarded the prestigious Leading International Rider title at the end of the night. In front of a capacity crowd of 6,500 in the Ricoh coliseum, eight horse and rider combinations of the original twenty were able to master the test and advance to a jump-off. Unfortunately the eight did not include a single Canadian rider, all of whom did no better than four faults in the opening round.
It should come as no surprise, however, that the star-studded American roster would advance, nor the Irish - both had been trading top placings all week. Ireland’s Dermott Lennon set the pace as the lead-off rider, laying down a pace which was bested immediately by America’s Laura Kraut, no stranger to riding at speed. Kraut’s horse took a stumble which likely contributed to pulling a rail while on course. Kent Farrington followed Kraut, cutting every corner with Uceko and simply flying across the ring between the jumps, besting Lennon’s original time by more than three seconds.
“I try to take advantage of his stride and bravery,” said Farrington, “he’s a lofty jumper and he really takes his time in the air. I have to leave a lot of strides out because if I do five strides and another horse does five strides it’s going to be very slow for me because he has such a big stride. The way for me to be fast in the jump off is for me to leave out the most strides and try to roll back a little shorter than the other riders can.”
Jessica Springsteen (Colts Neck, NJ) was next in the ring, with Vindicat W, formerly ridden by Peter Charles to a Gold medal for Britain at the London Olympics this summer. The pair provided the heart-stopping moment of the night when (in the heat of a jump off turn) Vindicat’s feet went out from under him, sending both to the ground. Both were up and on their feet in seconds, Vindicat clearly feeling fresh enough to gallop up the ring and jump one of the spread jumps on his own, much to the delight of the crowd. Springsteen reported both are completely fine, and chalks it up to experience and a spot of bad luck.
Colombia’s Daniel Bluman came within tenths of a second to catching Farrington’s time, but Sancha LS pulled a rail and they had to settle for fourth. Ireland’s Conor Swail had the luxury of riding last in the jump off and knew he’d have to lay it out with Lansdowne if he would have a chance. “I didn’t think I left a lot there,” said Swail of his jump off. “With a round like that you have to go as fast as you can within reason and be safe and clear. And if that’s good enough, then that’s great. And if not, then you know you’ve done all you can.”
Farrington was awarded the Leading International Rider title at the end of the night, and took a moment to explain what that meant to him and why he enjoys competing at the Royal. “This show makes a big effort to put on a great event and having awards like this for the riders is something special. Tonight was a packed house - sold out - in the city. You don’t find that too many other places in the world, even at a lot of top shows in Europe they don’t have a crowd like they do here. I really think that makes it something special.” Farrington remarked.
Leading Canadian Rider went to Jill Henselwood, and her mount George was named the Leading Canadian Horse.
Earlier today, the crowd-pleasing $15,000 Canine / Equine Relay was won by another Irishman, Shane Sweetnam, who was paired with “Puff Daddy” for the canine portion of the event.
$75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge
Kent Farrington / Wellington, FL / Uceko / 0 : 34.13
Conor Swail / Ireland / Lansdowne / 0 : 35.34
Dermott Lennon / Ireland / Hallmark Elite / 0 : 37.27
Daniel Bluman / Colombia / Sancha LS / 4 : 34.96
Laura Kraut / Middleburg, VA / Teirra / 4 : 36.91
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