Monday, May. 27, 2024

Up Chiqui Gets Down To Business At Pennsylvania National


Kent Farrington risks it all to win the big one.

Yes, he’s just that fast. Fast enough to win 12 grand prix classes in one year. And fast enough to win the $65,000 Budweiser Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W over 10 other jump-off contenders.

“He’s an amazing horse. When he’s really on form like that, he can do unbelievable things,” Kent Farrington said of Up Chiqui.
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Kent Farrington risks it all to win the big one.

Yes, he’s just that fast. Fast enough to win 12 grand prix classes in one year. And fast enough to win the $65,000 Budweiser Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W over 10 other jump-off contenders.

“He’s an amazing horse. When he’s really on form like that, he can do unbelievable things,” Kent Farrington said of Up Chiqui.

Their jump-off performance for the final class of the Pennsylvania National, Oct. 22-27 in Harrisburg, Pa., was truly amazing. Farrington went second in the 11-horse jump-off field, and he galloped flat-out with Up Chiqui exhibiting his usual extravagant flair and enthusiasm. They stopped the timers in 37.24 seconds, with all the rails in the cups.

Farrington just had to sit and wait to see if anyone could catch him.

“McLain [Ward] is fast on any horse, especially [Larioso]. And then there was Beezie [Madden] on Authentic—I knew it was going to be as tough a jump-off as any,” Farrington said. “I talked to [groom] Alex [Warner] before I went and said, ‘What should we do?’ We decided that I just had to lay it down and take a shot, and if I had one down trying to win, so be it. But I wasn’t going to back off at all,” added Farrington.

No one even came close to Up Chiqui’s time until Authentic and Madden made a bid. The Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalists were right on the pace, but Authentic lost a little impulsion on the rollback to an oxer and caught the back rail. They finished with 4 faults in 37.90 seconds.

Canadian Mac Cone tried his hardest on Melinda, but they fell almost 4 seconds short. Ward was the last to go on Larioso, and he meant business. He and the bay gelding turned and burned the whole way around the course, and Ward had Farrington’s time in his sights.

Finally, A Win!

Victoria Watters Leblond had come close to winning the NAL Adult Hunter Finals before, but the blue ribbon had eluded her.

“I really wanted to end my Susan Lucci reign in this class,” she said, laughing. “I’ve gotten every other color of ribbon from here.”

This year, she’ll add blue to the collection, as she rode her Eye Remember Rio to the top with a score of 87 in the second round to clinch the victory.

“As long as I put my brain cells together, we can always do it,” Leblond said. “He’s flawless. I’ve waited my entire life to find that horse.”

Leblond had to fly back and forth between the indoor shows to her home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I don’t get to practice much. I’m a single mom with two boys, 9 and 7. I have to go back for pumpkins and costume parties this weekend,” she said.

Leblond, who overcomes the challenge of riding though legally blind, acknowledges that “Rio,” a 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse by Rio Grande, is a horse of a lifetime.

“Win or lose, I always look forward to riding him,” she said. “I love to come to indoors. I ride better at indoors—I think I can see better. And I can relax and really enjoy it.”

As Ward turned for a long gallop to the last oxer, the crowd cheered him on. But Ward decided against a headlong gallop to the last, took a pull, and finished in 38.17 seconds for second place.

“A last jump like that is always dicey,” Farrington said. “Everybody starts cheering, and you start going for it. You have to make a split-second decision, and lucky for me, he slowed down, because he really would have been close to catching us.”

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Farrington, 26, agreed that Up Chiqui has had a remarkable year.

“He had to step up. I just started jumping him in bigger and bigger classes,” he said. “He’s got a tremendous heart. He’s full of energy, and he wants to do it. I have a great group of owners who are very supportive of me. I have great people helping me behind the scenes, and all of those things contribute to it.”

Farrington now has a comfortable lead in the FEI World Cup East Coast League standings, with three wins in World Cup-qualifying classes. But he isn’t sure if Up Chiqui will make the trip to the FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, next April.

“That’s a long time from now, and a long way away, so we’ll have to see,” he said.

Brunello Takes The Triple Crown

Liza Towell Boyd might not have had an entry in the grand prix at the Pennsylvania National, but she refers to Brunello as her “grand prix hunter,” and the pair did a little winning of their own.

Boyd guided Brunello to the grand hunter and regular working hunter tricolors. The wins clinched a remarkable trifecta of regular working hunter championships—Capital Challenge (Md.), the Washington International (D.C.) and the Pennsylvania National.

The wins came 10 years after Boyd, Camden, S.C., rode Monday Morning to the grand junior hunter championship at the Pennsylvania National.

“It was really neat to do that as a professional. I haven’t had a horse since Monday who’s given me that much. He has the ability, but also the heart and the desire to pull through for you. He’s a special horse,” she said of Brunello.

Owner Caroline Clark Morrison also rode Brunello, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood, to the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, reserve championship at the Pennsylvania National. Boyd’s father, Jack Towell, and brother, Hardin Towell, found Brunello in Europe in January. Morrison bought the elegant  chestnut sight unseen on their word.

“Hardin was really the one who came home and said, ‘Liza, this is a really good horse.’ I made him ride him for the first couple of days, since when they arrive from Europe they’re usually a little fresh, and then I sort of just took him over. I kind of stole him from Hardin,” Boyd said with a laugh.

“We had him in the first years, but he jumped so easy we decided to move him to the regular working,” said Jack. “He took to it like a duck to water. He’s such an easy horse and such a kind horse. Every jump he jumps, he means to jump well. He’s gone for three weeks in a row now, showing in two divisions, and still jumps as crisp as can be.”

Getting Lucky

Tracey Mack flirted with disaster and won in the NAL Adult Jumper Finals.

She struck a furious gallop to the first fence of the jump-off and left a stride out to the vertical, but it all worked out as she and Lucky Four stopped the timers just fractions of a second faster than Rebecca Forbes on Kick The Clouds.

“He can always win—it’s usually just whether I can hang on! [Trainer John Brennan] told me not to chip to the first, so apparently I translated that into run, which also wasn’t what I was supposed to do,” she said, laughing.

Mack, Noank, Conn., has ridden Lucky Four for 1 1⁄2 years.

“He’s a blast. He’s really fast and strong. There’s a lot going on—I just kick and hang on,” she said.
The veteran gray gelding has been a top children’s jumper mount for riders such as Gabby Slome, Hillary Dobbs and Nick Dello Joio. Mack rode him to the adult amateur jumper, 18-35, circuit championship at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) this year.

After placing second at the Washington International (D.C.) Horse Show Adult Jumper Finals the week before, Mack was determined to win.
 
“I have a history of being second in these kinds of classes, so I’m really excited that I finally won one! I’ve been doing the NAL for a long time,” she  said.
She was also second in the NAL Children’s Hunter Finals eight years ago.

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Mack, who turned 20 the day before her NAL victory, currently attends Mt. Holyoke College (Mass.) where she’s a “sophomore-and-a-half,” she said. After taking a year off to ride, she’s trying to complete her sociology degree in three years before applying to law school.

Mack rides on Mt. Holyoke’s intercollegiate riding team but had to skip their home show to attend the Pennsylvania National.

Brunello’s jump was always impressive, but it took him a while to morph from a jumper to a classic hunter.

“When he really came through was this summer at Blowing Rock (N.C.). He always jumped great, but he needed to learn to poke his nose out and be a little more huntery, and I think there he got it all together. I thought, ‘Oh good, we’re going to have fun at indoors!’” Boyd said.

“He loves what he does. In the ring, you just get to the fence and kick and drop, and he just fires across the jumps,” she added. “He has a jump like I’ve never felt on a horse before.”

Rock Star and Jennifer Alfano had to settle for reserve behind Brunello and Boyd in the regular working hunter division, but the second year green championship was all their own. Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y., also rode Violets Are Blue to the first year green reserve championship, helping her earn the leading hunter rider award. Kirsten Coe rode Genuine to the first year green tricolor, while Archie Cox and White Oak claimed the regular conformation division and Scott Stewart rode West Point to the top of the green conformation standings.

Just Jack Jumps To Win

Caroline Moran is no stranger to winning at the Pennsylvania National—she took the grand and amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championships in 2002 and ’03 with Saint Nick, and then moved to the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division in 2004 and won the championship on In Return.

“I haven’t been showing him a lot because he’s very sensitive, and he has very sensitive feet,” Moran said of Just Jack. “So, we’ve only been showing about once a month, if that. This is the only one of the three indoors that I did. This happens to be one of my favorite shows.”

Moran, Wellington, Fla., bought “Jack” three years ago, when he was competing in the green conformation division.

“When he doesn’t want to behave himself he can be difficult to ride, but this week he was very relaxed and felt great. I could push him the whole way around and not feel like he was going to take over at any point,” she said.

“He’s a lot more like riding a little cat than riding big old Saint Nick or In Return. He’s a lot more sensitive than they were. I have to sit chilly a lot of the time. We seem to have developed a relationship together,” she added.

Moran got to see some photos of Jack, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood, from his days in Europe as a jumper, and was amused.

“He was much thinner and his tail was all banged, and he looked like a jumper. Now, he looks like a marshmallow,” she said.

Michelle Spadone’s R Mable KZ bears no resemblance to a marshmallow—she’s still all jumper. Spadone has ridden the 13-year-old mare for seven years and guided her to the win in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.

“I know I can trust Mable. I’m always nervous when I go in the ring, but I’ve had her so long that I know her so well. When it comes down to it, I can always count on her,” she said.

The big bay mare has an opinionated style, but “she’s gotten better over the years,” said Spadone, of Redfield Farm in Califon, N.J. and Ocala, Fla. “I was just telling [husband and trainer Emil Spadone] that I was a little nervous because she was very quiet the first day, but I think she’s just finally settling in a little bit.”

Spadone went first in the seven-horse jump-off, but she didn’t watch anyone else go.

“I’m a little superstitious—I think that if I look, they’ll beat me, so I don’t watch,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure my time would hold up because I thought I was a little slow to the last jump. I slowed down a little bit because I was worried about having it down.”

Saly Glassman came tantalizingly close to beating Spadone, jumping off clean just .10 seconds slower. But she took the amateur-owner jumper championship aboard Ginger Watt.

Molly Sorge

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