September 16, 2013--Kent Farrington was on fire Saturday, topping the $50,000 Hermès Classic with his talented mount Willow by besting a nine-horse jump-off with a double clear effort in 37.91 seconds. Forty-one of the country's top equestrian athletes turned out for the event at the 2013 American Gold Cup CSI4*-W, held at Old Salem Farm, but it was Farrington who had all the answers to beat Ireland's Darragh Kenny with Prof De La Roque and Argentina's Max Amaya riding Cartier, finishing second and third, respectively.
Ireland's Alan Wade built the challenging track on the Grand Prix Field, which included an oxer-vertical double combination, and difficult final line with an oxer to a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination that finished with an uphill vertical. Only nine were able to complete the course without fault, although a tight time allowed had three riders finishing with a single time fault.
For the jump-off, the competitors began with the first oxer in the final line of the original course to the oxer of the triple combination, before jumping a single vertical with a bending line to the double combination. They finished over two new fences before galloping to a single airy vertical.
Only four of the returning athletes managed to complete a second faultless round, the first of which came from Kent Farrington and Willow, owned by Amalaya Investments of Houston, TX. The duo set the target by leaving a stride out to the double combination and galloping easily over the final vertical. They crossed the finish line in 37.91 seconds, which would prove uncatchable.
"This horse has a very large stride and I just tried to take advantage of that in a couple of the lines," explained Farrington. "I actually did one less in the combination, which I don't think many horses can do. That's a very unique horse that he can open up his stride that much and still be able to jump a double well."
Darragh Kenny made a good effort to beat Farrington's time aboard Prof De La Roque, owned by Postage Stamp Farm of Ridgefield, CT, and despite their sharp inside turns to the final obstacles, they fell just short of the leaders with a time of 38.49 seconds, which held up for second place.
Paige Johnson managed to post the next jump-off round without error riding Dakota, owned by Salamander Farm of The Plains, VA, but although they were able to leave all the rails intact, they broke the beam in 41.38 seconds for fourth place.
It was Max Amaya who slipped into the third place position with Cartier, owned by Stonehenge Stables of Ocean, NJ. They held the same pace as Johnson as they cleared the course, clocking in at 41.36 seconds, just 2/100ths of a second faster, stealing the yellow ribbon and sealing Farrington's victory.
"This is actually my student, Megan Nusz's horse," admitted Farrington. "I rode him one time before and I just started riding him here at this show. He's been a good horse for her she's won classes on him as well and she was nice enough to let me ride him for a little bit. He's careful and a little bit spooky, but he has a very big stride so he likes a lot of support and keep him confident."
Tomorrow, Farrington will compete in the $200,000 American Gold Cup CSI4*-W with his veteran mount Uceko. "That's been a long time partner of mine," said Farrington. "He's had a great season and he's got some more good rounds in him this year."
Farrington has been enjoying competing at the American Gold Cup and appreciates all of the efforts that the show has made for the exhibitors and spectators. "The management and the owners of Old Salem Farm are making a real effort to run this as an international level show," he said. "I think that it is very important for the United States to at least have a couple of events that are run at that standard. The improvements they have made just keep raising the level of the show."
$25,000 SJHOF High Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic
Earlier in the day, athletes had the opportunity to showcase their skills during the $25,000 SJHOF High Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic. The Alan Wade course began at the far end of the Grand Prix field and tested riders with an oxer-vertical double combination and a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination by the gate. Ten of the 49 starters were faultless over the track, and for the jump-off they began with a new oxer and vertical, followed by the first part of the double combination, and then a sharp bending line before rolling back over the final obstacles and finishing by the gate.
Lillie Keenan posted the first clear jump-off with Pumped Up Kicks, owned by Chansonette Farm of New York, NY, carefully leaving all of the fences intact. Although she had a handy time of 42.315 seconds, there were six entries remaining and the time would only hold up for third place.
Karen Polle of New York, NY, was next with her long-time partner What Ever. Despite this being the horse's biggest class since returning from an injury, she proved she was ready to win. They made sharp turns and had a big gallop, easily winding their way through the course without error and breaking the beam at 40.663 seconds.
Frances Land of Alpharetta, GA, tried to catch Polle's time with Vieanne, but for the second day in a row the pair had to settle for second place. They were also very quick and precise, but crossed the finish line in 41.934 seconds. The only other rider to finish the course without incurring any faults Erin Haas aboard As Di Chupito, owned by the North Face Farm of Chesea, MI. In an effort to leave all the rails in place they had a more conservative pace, finishing in 45.560, earning the fourth place ribbon and sealing's Polle's victory.
"The place where I made the most time was my turn to the liverpool, and then I left out a stride to the next vertical, which I didn't see many people do," admitted Polle. "My horse is just naturally fast also, so I can cover ground quickly."
What Ever and Polle have been partnered together for three years, but the mare is just coming back from an injury. "This was her biggest class yet," smiled Polle. "She started at Lake Placid, but we took it pretty slow. She's so brave. I can go in and go as fast as I want. I think she's the only horse that I've gotten and I've just clicked right away with. As soon as I got her I felt so comfortable and so calm. She just tries so hard for me and even if I make a mistake, she's always there for me."
The first class of the day on the Grand Prix Field was the $10,000 Mitchell-Innes & Nash Fine Art Adult Amateur Classic. Patricia Hennessy of Kintnersville, PA, topped the nine-horse jump-off aboard Little Tom with a double clear effort in 27.328 seconds. Elizabeth Lamotte of West Grove, PA, followed her with Spit Fire in second with a time of 29.650 seconds, while Tiffany Field and London, owned by Hidden Brook Farm of Salt Point, NY, rounded out the top three by finishing in 31.844 seconds.