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PHOTOS: Farrington Tops $250,000 FTI Grand Prix At Hampton Classic

World-class equestrians compete Sunday in Bridgehampton.

Kent Farrington set the pace as the first rider to go in the decisive jump-off for the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix at the 37th Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, and it was a pace his two competitors couldn’t match.

Riding Voyeur, Farrington, of Chicago, Ill., was the first starter in the jump-off, and they kept all eight jumps standing as they sped to a time of 47.53 seconds. Farrington won $82,500 and added to the lead he was already holding in the North American East Coast League of the FEI World Cup.

Irish rider Shane Sweetnam just brushed the front rail of the oxer in front of the packed grandstand on Amaretto D’Arco to finish with 4 faults in 48.04 seconds. Molly Ashe-Cawley and Carissimo slipped badly on the 180-degree turn to the same oxer before leaping awkwardly and demolishing the jump. They regrouped, though, to cross the finish line with just those 4 faults in a time of 55.19 seconds.

Farrington and Voyeur were the ninth starters in the first round, and for a while it looked as if they’d be the only faultless pair and be able to win without a jump-off. But Farrington said he was always getting ready for the jump-off. “I think you give yourself a false sense of hope if you think you can win it that way,” said Farrington, 31. “I told Guilherme [Jorge, the course designer] before the class that I thought there’d be between three and seven clears.”

Galloping fast and turning tightly from the start, Farrington didn’t leave much room for Sweetnam, 31, and Ashe-Cawley, 41, to beat him.

Sweetnam said he saw Farrington’s round, “and I knew I had to go. I thought I was OK [turning into the oxer that Amaretto D’Arco lowered], but then I wasn’t. He just touched it,” said Sweetnam, who rides for Spy Coast Farm. Amaretto D’Arco is a 12-year-old Belgian-bred stallion.

Ashe-Cawley, of Wellington, Fla., said she too felt the pressure. She discovered after finishing that Carissimo, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, had pulled off a front shoe at the second fence. “So he really lost his footing on the turn, and I really would have liked to have circled, but you can’t do that when you’re going for $250,000! There was no way to solve it, except to keep going,” she said.

Farrington finished second in the 2011 FTI Grand Prix. “I think I’ve ridden in this grand prix for the last 10 years, and I’ve won every ribbon except blue. It’s great to finally win that one too!” he said. Voyeur is a 10-year-old, Dutch Warmblood gelding whom Farrington started riding for owner Amalaya Investments last winter.

Guilherme Jorge’s course proved quite a challenge to the 35 riders and horses who started. The final jump (fence 14), a narrow vertical set four strides after a scope-testing oxer, caused the most faults.  Since the time allowed was difficult to make, some riders were forced to make a tight turn into the final line of jumps. Ten horses lowered the top rail of the last fence, including defending champions McLain Ward and Antares F, the first pair to face the course’s challenge.

“I didn’t make up my mind about the last fence until I saw the starting list this morning, and I saw what a strong field we had. That’s when I decided to make it a narrow vertical,” said Jorge, who has designed the Hampton Classic’s jumper courses since 2010.  “It is a very fine line between making a course that is too easy and a course that is too hard.”

Photos by Daniel Gonzalez. Words via HamptonClassic.com.

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