Wellington, Fla., Feb. 15, 2006 -- On an unseasonably cold and blustery South Florida day, it was survival of the fittest during the main event on February 12 at the 2006 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club. The $60,000 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup wrapped up week three at the festival, the nation's longest running and largest equestrian extravaganza.
Of the 59 who started in the second American Grand Prix Association (AGA) class of the 2006 tour, only two competitors could muster a clean round over the difficult and technical track by Robert J. Ellis that featured three double combinations: the first a vertical to an oxer, the second an oxer to oxer, and the third a vertical to a vertical. Those last two combinations came in succession. The double of oxers at 9a and 9b accounted for 38 rails down, while the double verticals at 10a and 10b tallied another 20 poles on the floor.
A very tight time allowed only added to already-difficult going. Twenty-eight of the starters could not get home within the time allowed.
The first of the two clear rides came 29-deep in the starting order when Kimberly Prince and Marlou from Windmill Ranch mastered the course.
One horse later, Kent Farrington on the 2005 AGA Horse of the Year Madison, owned by Alexa Weeks, produced the second clear ride of the day.
"She felt great. The round felt maybe a little scrappy, a little rough," said Farrington, "But that was more because of the course. There was never a break. The lines were either short or long, and there was a lot of twisting and turning, so it was hard for that course to feel like a smooth go round."
In the jump-off, a stumble and a stop for Prince and Marlou at the second fence on the speed course opened the door for Farrington. He and Madison went clear in 57.42 seconds, earning the victory and putting Madison back at the top of the charts in the race for 2006 Horse of the Year title.
Ellis discussed his course after the event.
"It turned out to be a very difficult course. We put a few distance problems out there, and we also made it very delicate, so it took a lot of riding. I thought we'd get five to seven clear, especially after how they jumped on Thursday."
The $60,000 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup is the sixth of 14 qualifying events for the FTI Rider Challenge, a rider bonus pool for $200,000 in which the riders receive points based on the number of riders in the seven Thursday and seven Sunday Grand Prix events that are part of the WEF Wellington series.
The Bainbridge Florida Classic/WCHR Spectacular, week four at the 2006 Winter Equestrian Festival, begins today. Jumper highlights include Round Four of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series on February 17 and the $75,000 Bainbridge Idle Dice Classic, presented by the Palm Beach Post on February 19.