The 'Continental' Tournament at Spruce Meadows finished with a fantastic day of competition, including another big victory for Kent Farrington and Uceko in the $200,000 CN Performance Grand Prix CSI-W, the second week in a row that they have won the grand prix. Beezie Madden (USA) and Coral Reef Via Volo won the $60,000 Great-West Life Cup 1.50m. The Spruce Meadows Summer Tournaments will continue on June 25-30 with the 'Canada One' Tournament CSI-W 4*.
Course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela tested the riders today with a technical track, but six were able to find the clear path to the jump-off. First in was McLain Ward (USA) on Rothchild, owned by Sagamore Farm. They were the fastest pair of the day in 44.327 seconds, but it came at the price of four faults at the second jump. They would finish in fifth place.
Reed Kessler (USA) and Cylana were clear in 46.810 seconds, but it wasn't quite enough to pull out the win today. Kessler has had a string of second place finishes at this year's Spruce Meadows, including one earlier in the morning in the 1.50m with Mika. She laughed, “I'm living under some kind of a curse; I've been second about 25 times in a row now! I actually had a feeling he would beat me, going after me. I came in a little fast to that combination in the first round, and she was quite good to me. I wanted, out of that big gallop, to really make sure I gave her a better chance this round. He did the big 10 strides to (fence) 10c, which I could have done. But that's kind of the way it goes early in the jump-off. It's just making me hungrier I guess!”
Kessler praised Cylana, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco, and their teamwork. “She was fantastic. I thought I wasn't totally spot-on in the first round. It's part of being a team. She was definitely on today and she carried me through the first round. I'm happy with my second place finish. I wish I could have beaten him, but there are still a few weeks left,” she said with smile.
Farrington and Uceko were next in the jump-off, and they set out in a huge gallop before they even crossed the start timers. Everything came up smoothly for them, and they left out a stride to a wide oxer, the second to last fence in the jump-off. They stopped the timers in 44.469 seconds to take the lead, which no one would be able to catch.
Farrington said rather than trying to only catch Kessler's time, he was also trying to think about the fast horses and riders who would follow him. “Beezie was on the horse that won the World Cup Finals and is one of the best riders in the world on a fast horse. Charlie Jayne has a very big gallop on that horse, similar to mine. I thought they were both real threats coming after me,” he acknowledged. “It was more about sticking to my own strategy (and) using my horse's strengths, which are his bravery and his great gallop. I just let him open up right from the start and didn't let up.”
Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner's Simon wouldn't threaten Farrington's time. They were clear, but their slower time of 48.197 seconds would leave them in fourth place. Charlie Jayne and Alex R. Jayne's Chill R Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide stallion by Chellano Z x A Lucky One, had a dramatic start to their jump-off with a long gallop around the ring before the first jump, but it didn't quite work out as planned. After drifting right after the first jump, they added in a stride from what Farrington did in the first line. Following that, Jayne let off the gas pedal a bit.
Jayne remarked, “I started galloping about 50 strides away and the wrong one happened to show up. The 16 foot rails are very impressive here. That was the one jump in the first round that he didn't jump well, the CN oxer that was jump three in the first round. It was fence one in the jump-off, so I was a little worried that he was going to be backed off. He didn't back off, but I got a little too deep and shifted right.” He continued, “I just made a decision after I got 12 (strides) to fence two that I was going to try and go for a clear round. I was really happy with the way he went. He'd been knocking on the door the last two weeks. I've been making little rider errors, so I was happy that I fixed those for today.” Jayne added, “I wanted to say thank you to CN for being such a long-time sponsor for the sport. They've done amazing things for this sport, along with Spruce Meadows, so thank you.”
The final horse in the jump-off was Ilan Ferder's Baronez with Kirsten Coe. They had a rail at the second to last jump to finish with four faults in 47.821 seconds for sixth place.
Uceko, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Celano x Koriander owned by RCG Farm, is a horse that knows what he's doing now and “doesn't need experience,” Farrington said. Before the competition, “he felt wild; that's how he's at his best,” he added. “We keep him fresh and don't over-show him. My job is to manage his career and make it last as long as I can,” Farrington commented.
By winning the first two grand prix competitions of the season, Farrington won a CN Bronze Spike and a $50,000 bonus through the CN $1,000,000 Precision Series. If Farrington and Uceko are victorious in the Atco Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup during the 'North American', they they will receive a CN Silver Spike and $450,000. The million dollar series will conclude with the CN International Grand Prix during the 'Masters', where an additional $500,000 bonus will be on the line if Farrington can come up with the winning formula once again.
Regarding the Series, Farrington said, “It's a great start, now we have to keep being great. We have to see if we're up for the challenge, but we'll give it our best shot.” When asked how he'll spend his bonus money, he said, “I'll put it away and forget about it for a little while and just stay focused on what's still left to do here. I'll buy a few rounds at the pub for everybody! It's difficult to win anywhere, especially here in these classes with top competitors and big jumps. Two rounds of a serious course at Queen Elizabeth and the Masters, it's certainly not going to be easy.”
Final Results: $200,000 CN Performance Grand Prix CSI-W
1. UCEKO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Celano x Koriander
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), RCG Farm: 0/0/44.469
2. CYLANA: 2002 Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco
REED KESSLER (USA), Reed Kessler: 0/0/46.810
3. CHILL R Z: 2003 Zangersheide stallion by Chellano Z x A Lucky One
CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Alex Jayne: 0/0/47.000
4. SIMON: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/48.197
5. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant De L’Ile
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farm: 0/4/44.327
6. BARONEZ: 2001 Warmblood mare by Heartbreaker x Unknown
KIRSTEN COE (USA), Ilan Ferder: 0/4/47.821
7. LANSDOWNE: 2003 KWPN stallion by Guidam x Wolfgang
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Ariel & Susan Grange: 4/86.298
8. DOMINO: 2003 Warmblood gelding by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Azur Depaulstra
JOS VERLOOY (BEL), Axel Verlooy: 4/86.696
9. KISMET 50: 2001 BWP mare by Kannan x Furioso II
CANDICE KING (USA), Bellissimo, LLC: 4/86.957
10. TIC TAC: 2003 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Clinton x Darco
LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jane Clark: 4/87.543
Source: Press release from Sprude Meadows Media Services
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