Kent Farrington and Uceko
Calgary, Canada – September 7, 2012 - -The Spruce Meadows Masters’ Mercedes-Benz Evening of the Horse started off with a rousing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, as American rider Kent Farrington hoisted the trophy in the $100,000 Encana Cup 1.60m.
Riding RCG Farm’s Dutch warmblood gelding Uceko, the Wellington-based equestrian battled through the challenging first round track on Friday afternoon, landing themselves the much-coveted final spot in the jump-off round. And the advantage didn’t go to waste, as the pair galloped around the twisting, shortened course in 38.65 seconds – about three-tenths of a second behind the pace to beat.
Kent Farrington and Uceko, above and the trophy presentation, below
“I played it a little too smart – that was a little too close,” said Farrington, of his fraction-of-a-second win. “I could have looked very dumb. But I just got it, so the plan worked out.
“Going fourth out of four is a big advantage in a class like this, so I got to watch everyone go. I saw the one before me go clear, so I knew exactly what I had to do.”
And he did it, with the little grey gelding looking to be at the top of his game.
“He loves jumping on grass, that really suits him,” said Farrington, who is originally from Chicago, IL. “He’s on form and it’s a great way to start the week.”
Early in the event, the Leopoldo Palacios-designed track showed its challenging bits. And while none of the obstacles could be described as particularly easy, an imposing triple bar leading to a triple combination – with the option to do six or seven strides in between – proved to be one of the more testing questions for the contenders.
Hans Dieter Dreher with Magnus Romeo finished second
Shane Breen and CosI Can were third
The pair will be back in the International Ring on Sunday afternoon to try their hand at the $1,000,000 CN International. In addition to the hefty purse, Farrington has his eye on a $50,000 bonus awarded to the horse-rider combination to win two legs of the four-part CN Precision Series. He and Uceko won the first class of the series, the CN Reliability Grand Prix.
“I’m aiming for it,” said Farrington. “That’s the one class you always want to go out and [win]. But these are horses, anything can happen and before you blink an eye a rail’s down. All you can really look for is consistency in your horses and hope that, on that given day, they shine.”
Farrington’s not alone in his chase for the bonus; fellow American contenders Rich Fellers [Flexible] and Beezie Madden [Simon] will also be on the hunt. They’ve won the CN Performance Grand Prix and the ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup, respectively.
Runner-up Hans-Dieter Dreher posted the only other double clear ride in this event for his effort on Magnus Romeo. The duo’s jump-off round appeared to be picture-perfect, but the German rider’s conservative time of 38.96 seconds left the door open a crack for the American winners.
Juan Carlos Garcia and Prince De La Mar took home fourth
Fifth went to Harrie Smolders and Regina Z
Ranking third was Irish rider Shane Breen, who was riding the feisty warmblood gelding, Cos I Can. The pair was first to tackle the jump-off round, and set a blazing pace of 37.11 seconds. However, a pulled rail on the final obstacle kept the duo in third place.
Fourth place went to Italy’s Juan Carlos Garcia, who posted a four-fault jump-off ride aboard Prince de la Mar, and Harrie Smolders rounded out the top-five placings after chalking up one lone time fault in the first round with Regina Z.
The Evening of the Horse wrapped with a fan-favorite event, the $50,000 ATCO Electric Circuit Six Bar
. Eleven horse and rider combinations lined up to take their shot at the line of tall verticals, but only two were left standing in the final round: Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker and the Netherland’s Smolders.
An exercise of six fences were set for the event, with the final one creeping up the standards with each round. But Whitaker and Catwalk IV, and Smolders and Exquis Walnut de Muze made the 1.99m fence look, well, significantly smaller.
“He could have definitely jumped bigger,” said the Brit without hesitation. “Without a doubt. The last one he jumped easy… he felt very comfortable.”
Robert Whitaker and Catwalk IV
Harrie Smolders and Exquis Walnut de Muze
“I guess that’s easy to say now [that it’s over],” he added with a laugh.
Catwalk IV, a nine-year-old Holstein gelding, appeared to be a bit nervous entering the International Ring on Friday night. But it was all strategy – Whitaker said he hopes this will relax the horse before Saturday’s Nations’ Cup event.
“Catwalk’s a bit nervous and spooky in this atmosphere, so this is a good class for him,” he said. “It gets him in the ring and used to the atmosphere. The jumping is not the problem.
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t walk the course – it’s just six fences in a line. But when I came in I thought, ‘Oh bloody hell.’ He was nervous, but he came through it.”
Breen picked up another third-place ribbon, this time for his effort aboard his Oldenburg stallion, Balloon. The pair looked sharp through all five rounds of competition, but knocked a rail at the final obstacle.
Saturday at the Masters tournament features the much-anticipated BMO Nations’ Cup. With nine nations competing, who will top the pack?
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS FROM FRIDAY AT THE SPRUCE MEADOWS MASTERS
Kent Farrington and Uceko
Christina Liebherr and LB Con Grazia
Abdullah Al Sharbartly and Larkhill Cruiser
Christian Ahlmann and Aragon
Beezie Madden and Simon
RESULTS#816 - $100,000
Encana Cup - 1.60M
International Ring - Table A, Article 238.2.2. One Jump Off
Friday, September 7, 2012 Course Designer: Leopoldo Palacios Jugo, VEN
Dutch Warmblood / G / 11
Celano x Koriander
KENT FARRINGTON (USA)
Argentine / S / 11
Royal Feu x Hans Anders
HANS DIETER DREHER (GER)
Gestut Grenzland/Hans Brandlin & Bucheler, Paul
COS I CAN
Warmblood / G / 9
Olympic Lux x Harlequin du Carel
SHANE BREEN (IRL)
Mr. John Griffin & Mr. Shane Breen
PRINCE DE LA MAR
Warmblood / G / 9
Beguin de Moens x Socrate de Chivre
JUAN CARLOS GARCIA (ITA)
SAN LAZZARO DI SAVENA
Zangersheide / M / 12
Rex Z x Savoy Hanover
HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED)
LB CON GRAZIA
Swiss Warmblood / M / 9
Con Spirito R x Karondo v Schlosslihof
CHRISTINA LIEBHERR (SUI)
Irish Sport Horse / G / 11
Cruising x Crosstown Dancer
ABDULLAH AL SHARBATLY (KSA)
Warmblood / G / 11
Unknown x Unknown
CHRISTIAN AHLMANN (GER)
Dhr W vd Ham
Dutch Warmblood / G / 13
Mr Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA)
CORIANA VAN KLAPSCHEUT
Warmblood / M / 10
Darco x Heartbreaker
ERIC LAMAZE (CAN)
Torrey Pines & Artisan Farms
Dutch Warmblood / S / 14
Emilion x Nimmerdor
JUR VRIELING (NED)
VDL Stud & RA Villa Guerra
POLINSKA DES ISLES
Selle Francais / M / 9
Diamant de Semilly x Valespoir Malabry
FRANCOIS MATHY (BEL)
Team Harmony & Francois Mathy