The 2018 National Horse Show returned to the Kentucky Horse Park on Thursday with a series of upper-level show jumping competitions capped by the $135,000 International Jumper Classic CSI4*, attracting some of the best horses and athletes from the United States and beyond. Earning the largest share of the day’s purse as well as the Walter B. Devereux Memorial Challenge Trophy, Kent Farrington (USA) and Creedance captured the victory in the evening’s feature event, while Molly Ashe Cawley (USA) and Picobello Choppin PC also solidified themselves as one of the day’s champions by outrunning the pack in the $35,000 Palm Beach Masters Series International Open Jumpers Speed CSI4*.
Kent Farrington on Creedance. Photo by Phelps Media Group
With the class serving as a prerequisite to qualify for Saturday’s $250,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI4*-W, exhibitors in the $135,000 International Jumper Classic CSI4* were challenged to finish within the top 40 in order to earn a coveted slot in the show jumping grand finale of the week. Up against a sizable field of talented contenders and a challenging 15-effort track constructed by Ken Krome (USA), 13 pairs mastered the first course to gain eligibility into the jump-off, while four duos fell victim to a single time fault and a handful were knocked out of contention at the oxer-vertical in-and-out, the bogey fences of the evening.
Proving why he has previously held the title of best in the world based on the Longines Rankings, Farrington maneuvered 11-year-old Creedance, the horse he owns with R.C.G. Farm, to the first double-clean ride of the evening as third in the jump-off order-of-go, stopping the clock in 37.49 seconds to set the standard to beat for his peers that would follow.
“He’s special,” Farrington commented regarding his mount for the evening. “Special everything and he jumps special too, and that goes with the territory so I like him that way. In the warm-up, it’s almost easier if he is in a small space because there’s nowhere for him to go. He’s waiting for me to tell him what to do. That makes him very good inside because he’s naturally so fast. For me, he’s a modern show jumper. He’s fast and careful, and he can jump big. That’s everything I look for in a horse today.”
Georgina Bloomberg (USA), Peter Lutz (USA), Conor Swail (IRL), Beezie Madden (USA) and Sharn Wordley (NZL) all followed suit with subsequent double-clear trips, but none were quick-footed enough to overthrow the class leaders.
Kent Farrington on Creedance with Jennifer Burger and Mason Phelps. Photo courtesy of Shawn McMillen
A familiar face in the winner’s circle, Farrington is a multi-time Olympian for the United States and has been successful on the world stage with mounts such as Voyeur, Uceko and Gazelle, in addition to Creedance, for a number of years. Farrington wore the world’s No. 1 armband from May 2017 until April 2018, only being overthrown from the top spot after a leg injury prevented him from competing. Since returning to the show ring, he has quickly returned to his winning ways, nabbing victories in Valkenswaard, Germany; Valence, France; Calgary, Canada; and Tryon, USA, among others.
“I train pretty hard when I’m not on the horse,” he commented on coming back from his injury. “If I overdo it at the gym it will nag me a little bit the next day when I’m riding. I was really determined to come back in a hurry. I think it was twelve weeks from when I broke it to when I jumped the five star. For me it felt long, but they told me that’s pretty fast for that kind of injury. It was onto the next — got a little vacation and kept it moving. It’s part of the game. You do this or downhill skiing or anything else and you’re going to take some tumbles. If you ask any of these guys they can tell you a story where they’ve had a wreck here or there. You pick yourself back up and you keep going.”
Ultimately, Lutz and Robin De Ponthual, owned by Katherine Gallagher and Michael Meller, earned the reserve position with their double-clean time of 39.34 seconds, and Swail and Vanessa Mannix’s GK Coco Chanel clinched third place overall in 39.65 seconds.