Palm Beach, Fla.—Jan. 5
The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes foresight can be that as well.
After Kent Farrington won last year’s $100,000 Trump Invitational at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla, riders and organizers discussed the need for improving the footing for the next event at the facility. Donald Trump, owner of the stunning Mar-a-Lago estate, listened, and the picturesque lawn was replaced with top-notch Equestrian Services International turf footing for this year’s $125,000 Trump Invitational Grand Prix.
That turned out to be an especially good decision as a torrential downpour began shortly after the first horse entered the ring today. But despite rain falling throughout the entire class—at times in heavy, blowing sheets—the footing puddled but otherwise held up perfectly. Farrington was back, too, and he blazed the fastest clear track around the jump-off with Blue Angel—winning his second consecutive Trump Invitational.
“I think all the riders want to applaud Mark [Bellissimo, Equestrian Sport Productions LLC CEO and one of the masterminds behind the event] and Donald for re-doing the footing,” said Farrington. “It’s a huge effort to undertake and make this a high-level event, and now we can bring our best horses here and count on good footing. Today, with the weather, it was more just uncomfortable than anything else. We didn’t have to worry about horses falling down. I think last year was actually more difficult because the footing was so much better this year.”
“Mark told me, ‘Do the turf,’ ” added Trump. “What do you think of last year’s turf in this weather? You think we would have survived?”
“Not a chance,” answered Farrington.
Farrington’s jump-off time (36.85 seconds) with Blue Angel, a 14-year-old Anglo-European mare (Luidam—Astrid) owned by Robin Parsky, bested Candice King and Kismet 50’s time by nearly 2 seconds. King and Kismet went last but couldn’t quite match Farrington and Blue Angel’s foot speed.
“Kismet 50 is quite special,” said King, who’s been riding the Belgian Warmblood (Kannan—Famosa Z) mare owned by Bellissimo LLC since 2012. “I wanted to do well for the [Bellissimo] family but also for myself personally. As these other riders will attest, I’m known for going clear and not so fast. I wanted to put it all there as best I could. I knew how quickly I could safely go in this rain, so I just tried to be smooth and efficient.”
Todd Minikus picked up third aboard the careful-jumping Uraguay on a time of 38.88 seconds.
“I went early in the jump-off, so my plan was to put in a double-clear and then hope everyone else had another rain storm come in and give them a bit of bad luck,” he joked. “When I came out, I told the horse’s handlers that it was a third-placed round, and that’s what it was. But even though it’s wet, it was a great day.”
The original start list of 36 riders dropped to 28 due to the weather, but the ones who decided to ride didn’t note any slipping. Eight qualified for the jump-off, but Beezie Madden elected not to return aboard Coral Reef Via Volo. Anthony d'Ambrosio's course utilized every inch of the Mar-a-Lago ring, but it still included plenty of turns and combinations in the first round, including a troublesome triple at 12ABC, which saw rails fall numerous times throughout the class. An upright plank vertical at Fence 9 came down often as well.
In addition to the grand prix, a $5,000 junior/amateur speed class also took place, and Cloe Hymowitz won that aboard Bon Vivant.
“I haven’t ridden in a month before I got here, so I didn’t expect much, but I have confidence in myself and my horse,” said Hymowitz, a junior who rides with Ken Berkley. “I wanted to be a bit more cautious in my turns, so I was, but I went out there and just rode my hardest.”
Rolex signed on as a sponsor of this year’s event, and Mark and Donald promised next year’s event will offer even more prize money.
“There will be a third one,” said Donald. “As a novice, the weather today made the event even more exciting. I had no idea these athletes could even perform in this kind of weather. I’m very impressed.”
But the horses were just one part of today’s festivities, with country music star Hunter Hayes doing a live performance inside the lawn before the first horse jumped. There was also a red-carpet arrival for guests like Georgina Bloomberg and Ivanka Trump, who co-chaired the event with Paige Bellissimo, and a welcome reception around the stunning Mar-a-Lago pool.
A major objective of the Trump Invitational—also the kick-off of the 12-week FTI Winter Equestrian Festival—is to support the FTI Great Charity Challenge, which will take place Feb. 1 in Wellington, Fla. Net proceeds from the Trump event all go to the FTI GCC.
The FTI Challenge raises money for Palm Beach County, Fla., charities, and it’s raised more then $4.2 million since it was started four years ago. This year’s FTI GCC will support 34 charities, selected at random, and eight of the charities were drawn today. (A final two will be drawn Feb. 1.) Today’s event also included a live auction for a round of golf for four with Donald Trump at the Trump International Golf Club, and the auction alone raised $80,000 total towards the FTI GCC.