Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 20
Heading into the jump-off for the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W, Kent Farrington knew he had his work cut out for him. His mount, Uceko, shines brightest in a big open field, where his giant stride and scope have helped him win major classes at venues like Spruce Meadows (Alberta) and Hickstead (Great Britain). His strengths lay in his monster stride and tremendous scope, not in his footspeed, like Farrington's two-time winner of the feature class at the Pennsylvania National, Up Chiqui.
So Farrington came up with another plan: just put fewer strides between the fences across the ring.
“He’s actually kind of a slow horse in the air,” said Farrington, Wellington, Fla. “He jumps pretty high and can be a little bit in slow motion. So in order for him to be fast, he has to turn very short to the fences and try to leave out strides. So I left out to the combination. He’s a special horse. I don’t think there are many horses out there that can do that and leave it up in five [strides] across the middle. I took advantage of that, and I rolled back very short to the other jumps. I think that’s where he really made up his time. You have to play to your strengths.”
Watch Farrington jump-off. (Hint: turn the sound on to hear the crowd cheer him on.)
Harvard freshman Katie Dinan consulted with her trainer McLain Ward before her jump-off go and decided that six strides across the diagonal would work better for her mount, Nougat du Vallet.
Watch her round, which clinched second place.
After watching Farrington on television from atop Amaretto d’Arco in the schooling area, Shane Sweetnam didn’t bother trying to beat him. (“I wouldn’t have been able to catch him anyway,” Sweetnam pointed out with a grin.) He focused instead on a tidy clear for third, which helped him earn the leading open jumper rider award, thanks to winning a pair of open speed classes earlier in the week. Here he is over the short course:
A rail for Sweetnam would have relegated him toward the bottom of the nine horses jumping off over Alan Wade’s course, and out of the running for serious World Cup points. This show drew a stellar start list (including three-quarters of the U.S. Olympic team as well as alternate Charlie Jayne and Chill R Z and Belgian twins Olivier and Nicola Philippaerts). Top riders are jostling to be well-positioned on the FEI World Cup rankings following the fall indoor season.
Despite the nine clear rounds, Wade definitely built for the field. Some of the newer faces who struggled over Thursday’s $40,000 Pennsylvania Big Jump didn’t come back today. A plank toward the end of the ring fell regularly, as did a maxed out but narrow oxer. And a combination set against the rail with lots of spectators seated nearby made plenty of work for the jump crew.
The crowd saved their best reception for fifth-placed Margie Engle. She returned to the show ring at Harrisburg aboard last year’s winner, Indigo, after breaking her leg in June, and she’s still getting off with some help from a stepladder. She qualified for the jump-off and put down an efficient but relatively—for her—cautious second round.
Watch her go here:
A Long Trip Pays Off
Lisa Williams probably travelled the furthest of any hunter rider to compete at the Pennsylvania National, coming from Victoria, British Columbia, to win the amateur-owner, 36 and over, and grand amateur-owner hunter championships on Sanmorino.
“At home it can be hard because I’m my own division,” said Williams. “Sometimes I’ll have to bring another horse to fill in, so there’s three or four of us. It’s a thrill to be able to come and compete with so many amazing horses. It pushes you to be on top of your game because there’s no room for error.
From The Bottom To The Top