Calgary, Alberta—July 13
It would have been hard to bet against McLain Ward in the $400,000 Pan American Cup, the finale of the Spruce Meadows Pan American Tournament and the summer series in Calgary.
Ward had won the $83,000 Investor’s Cup 1.50-meter on Zander and the $33,500 Ashor Technologies 1.55-meter class on HH Carlos Z earlier in the week.
“McLain has been beating me all week. I think he has won every class,” Kent Farrington noted. But Farrington has been on a bit of roll himself, winning the $210,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth Cup on July 5 with Voyeur. So when both Ward and Farrington qualified for the jump-off of the $400,000 Pan American Cup, there was a race in store.
As first out, Farrington and Uceko had set an uncatchable pace in the jump-off that left Ward and Rothchild to finish second. Egypt’s Sameh el Dahan and Suma’s Zorro concluded a great summer series with a third place finish
“I hate sitting there and having to wait for the other riders to come after me,” Farrington said. “That’s not really my favorite thing. I would prefer to go last and know that it was over.” Farrington’s finish was over one second faster than Ward this time, and Uceko got his second big win of the summer after nearly six months off from competition. The 13-year-old KWPN gelding (Celano x Koriander) never skipped a beat.
“I am thrilled with him. He took a long break,” Farrington stated. “He has always gone great here at Spruce Meadows and my plan all along was to build him up and jump him in the last grand prix. Last week he had a good win in the big class. He actually was ready to go a little bit sooner than what I thought. He feels great. He feels better than he even did last year, and I look forward to him for the rest of the summer as well.”
The week before, when Uceko had won the $85,000 Progress Energy Cup on July 4 in his first week back showing, Farrington explained Uceko's break. Following a fantastic 2013 season, Farrington decided to give Uceko a rest while he focused on some of his other horses. Uceko has not shown since December and came out for the first time looking immediately back on form. “That horse has worked really hard for me for four years,” Farrington explained. “Now that I have some other horses that have stepped up to be competitive, I thought he deserved a break. I gave him six months to not even look at a jump and forget about showing for awhile. This is his first week out. He feels really fresh and better than ever and really excited to be back at a show. I could not be happier with him.”
And the pair has come back stronger than ever. “I think like any partnership with a rider over time, I know the horse better, and he knows me better,” Farrington said of his relationship with Uceko. “I know his strengths and his weaknesses, which helps me strategize my jump-offs or even my first round plan. I think that over time you have better success, or more consistent success, with a horse as you know them better.”
With the winner’s share of $132,000, Farrington joined Spruce Meadows’ million-dollar club for career earnings.
With back-to-back wins this week, including in a jump-off against Uceko on Friday, Ward went as fast as he could with Rothchild, but had to settle for second place today.
“Catching Kent is always difficult,” Ward admitted. “We have an ongoing battle that I think we both love and hate. I knew his horse had a bigger stride than mine did today. He got me with his stride last week in a big class, so I was a little bit concerned. My horse bucks a little bit, particularly when you try to go fast. He bucked after the China oxer and I didn’t get the vertical I wanted and ended up adding a stride to the last fence. For sure in the plan you would like those things to go a bit smoother and maybe it would have been a little bit closer. The horse performed great. I am certainly a little disappointed not to win, but this is a worthy victor and if I am going to lose to anybody, I would want to lose to him.”
“The last couple of years have been remarkable,” Ward said of Rothchild’s step to the next level. “He has always been a very good horse for me. We know each other very well. Kent spoke about how important the relationship is. I asked more of this horse in the last two years and not only has he handled it, but he is really starting to shine. I really enjoy this horse. I think he has a lot of heart and he gives me a lot, so I am going to try to continue it the same way.”
Sameh el Dahan was very happy to be in the company of two of the world’s top riders with his third place finish aboard Suma’s Zorro. The rider from Egypt moved to Europe three and a half years ago to further his career and has had a great season.
“This year especially, I have had so many wins and I could not be happier with a good finish to the tour,” el Dahan stated. “I had a good summer season here. My horses jumped fantastic the whole time.”
“This mare I have ridden since she was 7 and we have kind of grown up together,” the rider said of Suma’s Zorro. “We at Sycamore Stables normally don’t push our young ones so much, so she didn’t do a lot as a 7- and 8-year-old, and then last year we pushed her a little more as a 9-year-old.”
“Since last week she has been jumping the bigger tracks and she has always been in the prize givings,” el Dahan said. “She has a heart of gold and she is all that you can ask for in a horse—lots of heart, very careful, and always fights for you. She fights at every fence. I am very happy to have her.”