Wellington, Fla. – March 6
Hardin Towell gave Darragh Kenny a congratulatory high-five as he entered the International Ring for his jump-off in the $216,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO**** Grand Prix in Wellington (Fla.).
He knew a good round when he saw one. Kenny just set a blistering pace that was going to be tough to catch, and, sure enough, Towell couldn’t catch it, and neither could anyone else. For the second time in three weeks, Kenny and Red Star D’Argent (Quick Star—Divina De Frely) won the week’s feature grand prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival, besting a jump-off field of five from 50 competitors in a time of 42.835 seconds. Roberto Teran, Jr. and Woklahoma (44.891) were second, and Matt Williams and Valinski S (45.798) finished third.
“He’s just a great horse,” Kenny said of Red Star D’Argent, an 11-year-old Selle Francais stallion. “It doesn’t matter with him. You can go fast, slow, deep, long; he just wants to jump the jumps, and that’s what a great horse is.”
Darragh Kenny and Red Star D’Argent
Kenny, 28, of Ireland first started riding Red Star D less than three months ago when his previous rider, Sergio Alvarez Moya of Spain, sent the stallion to Kenny to be sold. After initially taking his time with the stallion, Kenny stepped the bay up to the grand prix level in the $130,000 WEF 6 CSI*** Grand Prix Feb. 19, and the duo won at first asking, taking home the blue ribbon under the lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium. In a new ring at a new venue at a bigger height during a different time of day, the result was the same, and now Kenny and Red Star D’Argent are undefeated together in grand prix competition.
“I’m learning that he’s a really good horse,” Kenny said. “He can go anywhere and do anything at the moment. He gives me a great feeling, and every time I jump him, he feels like he’s getting better and better. I was working a lot with the rideability and getting him confident and feeling confident with me, and today, he jumped excellent from the word, ‘Go.’
“I’m just lucky to have the horse, and Sergio is great, because he doesn’t put any pressure on me,” he continued. “He lets me do what I want with the horse, and it’s paying off.”
Navigating the Steve Stephens and Ken Krome-designed course without fault was a difficult task. It was hard to pinpoint a particular area of difficultly, as rails fell at will throughout, especially in the three combinations set. A tall 1.62-meter vertical resembling a bicycle had an especially high number of rails. It was a test of adjustability for horses of all stride lengths, particularly in two lines, a three or four-stride line of verticals on a diagonal and a bending line from a wide oxer to a short double.
“It was a very difficult course: very technical, very awkward,” Kenny said. I decided to try to do four strides between the two verticals, and I felt like it suited my horse better. I ended up doing six strides from the liverpool oxer to the skinny vertical. I think most people did five, but I just felt that was better for him.
“He’s really careful, so he doesn’t mind being deep,” he continued. “I just had to keep him together.”
“It was a very difficult course: very technical, very awkward,” Kenny said of the Steve Stephens and Ken Krome-designed course. Only five of 50 riders jumped cleanly in the first round.
In the jump-off, there was plenty of room to run with long gallop lanes between the fences. Williams put the pressure on as the first to jump-off, but Teran, Jr. upped the ante on the next ride. Then it was Kenny’s turn, and he and his mount shed a remarkable two seconds off the time. Towell and Ben Maher followed and tried to catch him, but they both had rails trying.
“I went out there with the idea to do as much as I could and to leave the jumps up,” Williams said. “I went a little wide to the last jump, but I don’t think I would have gone any quicker if I went after Darragh. I don’t think I could have caught him.”
“I felt that I just wanted to go as fast as I felt comfortable,” Kenny said. “The horse is naturally very fast. I just had a feeling that I was up a little bit, but I didn’t realize I was going as fast as I was. It ended up being great.”
Kenny said he will give Red Star D’Argent another light week or two before competing again. “The next target is probably Week 10 or Week 11,” he said. “Originally, I was saying Week 10, but with the way he’s jumping right now, I might just wait for Week 11.”
And as to whether his mount is still for sale?
“Maybe not if I can help it. I’m just going to keep going and see what happens.”
For complete results of the $216,000 CSIO**** Grand Prix at WEF, click here.
“I’m learning that he’s a really good horse. He can go anywhere and do anything at the moment,” Kenny said of Red Star D’Argent.
Roberto Teran, Jr. and Woklahoma
Matt Williams and Valinski S