Wellington, Fla-- Feb. 7
Old dogs may not be known for learning new tricks, but mature horses? Kent Farrington’s 15-year-old Uceko has figured a few out, and used them to his advantage on the way to a win in the $200,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping qualifier.
“He’s learned to be a fast horse, he actually was not a fast horse when I started,” Farrington said of ‘Monkey.’ “He has a long stride and sort of a slow canter. As I’ve gotten to know him really well, he’s learned to turn very short to the fences, and leave out strides where other horses can’t.”
Farrington had Uceko flying around the short course to post a time that was more than two and a half seconds faster than anyone else’s in the 14-horse jump off field—Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum got closest with Fibonacci, finishing second.
“Now for a jump-off, I really have his plan, and I’m very confident of what he can do,” Farrington said. “I try to execute it to the best of my abilities, and usually if I don’t make a big error he pulls it off.”
Find out more about Uceko in the Chronicle's Behind The Stall Door feature on him.
While Sunday’s class is a qualifier for the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, neither Farrington nor German rider Michaels-Beerbaum are aiming for that competition this year—not with Rio on the radar.
“That would definitely be my goal,” Michaels-Beerbaum said of the 2016 Olympic Games. “He’s short-listed for the German team at the moment. I’ll make a plan together with the chef d’equipe for him. He showed great form today, and we just hope to keep that going.”
Third place finisher Richard Spooner had a far greater performance on Big Red than he was expecting to—Spooner has only been riding the horse for a month.
“I couldn’t be any happier with the result today,” Spooner said. “When we got here, I kind of thought, ‘I’m going to be very aggressive. It’d be nice if I could have four faults and have a nice result, maybe get a point or two at this class.’ To have him go out and go double clear far exceeds my expectations.”
Spooner is in the same boat as Farrington and Michaels-Beerbaum in terms of aiming for the Olympics, but he’s being realistic.
“It would be a long shot for the team, but I’m gearing him for the team. I think he’s a team horse,” Spooner said. “He’s impressed me incredibly. In a very short period of time and round after round, he’s been consistently clear. I’m learning a bit with him in the jump-off, as well as the first round.
“He has all the scope; he’s super careful. He’s fit and ready to go,” Spooner continued. “It’ll be a little bit what Robert wants me to do – if he gears me in that direction or not. That would be my dream for that horse.”
Want to know more about the speedy little Monkey? Check out the Chronicle's Behind Stall Doors article with Uceko.
Read more about the Wellington CP Masters in the February 22 issue of the Chronicle of the Horse.