It wasn’t just the other competitors that Darragh Kenny had to battle in the $134,000 Adequan Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival on Jan. 26. With inclement weather canceling classes throughout the week, it was also a race against the storm clouds. And with Classic Dream, Kenny found himself on top.
The first rider went to post an hour earlier than the usual Saturday night start time due to expected inclement weather conditions. A total of 45 entries competed over a course designed by Peter Grant of Canada. Ten were clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. Seven of those 10 were double clear, leading to a very fast second round for the top prize.
The first to go clear in both rounds was Juan Pablo Betancourt on his own Dreamer Des Bergeries. They put in a solid trip in 51.78 seconds, which would slot them into seventh place. Sixth place went to Catherine Tyree on Catungee, who was clear in 45.38 seconds. Beat Mändli and Galan S brought the leading time down to 45.36 seconds for fifth place.
Next into the ring was Kenny on Classic Dream, a 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding by Colestus owned by Kenny and Ann Thompson. They blistered around the course with tight rollbacks in two spots on course to post a time of 42.42 seconds.
“I kind of just went!” said Kenny of his jump-off plan. “He hasn’t done so many jump-offs. He has never jumped a grand prix like this before in his life, but he really wants to do a good job. I think I was lucky. I got a really good turn back to the Rolex [jump] and to the wall, and he just tries to miss the jumps, so for me it is easy if I don’t screw it up.”
Kenny purchased Classic Dream as a 6-year-old with World Champion rider Jos Lansink, who then sold his share to Ann Thompson. “This is a really amazing result for us because we bought the horse when he was 6, and we have produced him the whole way along,” said Kenny. “I think we are both really excited about the horse. Today he showed that he has a lot of quality and ability, and I think we are just going to take our time.”
Following him in the ring was Beezie Madden on Chic Hin D Hyrencourt, who stopped the timers in 44.20 seconds for third place. Adrienne Sternlicht and Toulago placed fourth in 44.60 seconds.
Madden and Chic Hin D Hyrencourt competed in last week’s “Saturday Night Lights” grand prix, where Madden said he was impressed under the lights and “kind of a victim of a not very good ride on my part.”
“But tonight, he came back and was fantastic,” said the four-time Olympic medalist of the 11-year-old SBS gelding by Taran de la Pomme. “I was really happy with the way he reacted to coming back under the lights. I thought he was good enough in the first round to take a shot in the jump-off. When I saw Darragh’s tracks to the Rolex jump, I thought, ‘I’m not sure that I can go that tight!’ He’s getting there, and we’re forming a partnership. I’m really happy.”
This is the pair’s fifth top-three finish in a FEI ranking class. “He has a lot of quality,” said Madden. “He’s quite a careful horse. He’s big and scopey, but sensitive at the same time. Again, it’s going to be all about getting a partnership together with him, but I think he has all the qualities I hope for in a championship-type horse.”
Kent Farrington and Baltic Star 2 came the closest to Kenny, but their time of 43.23 seconds fell just short of the win.
“I think similar to Darragh, this is a horse that I have had for quite a few years,” said the Olympic team silver medalist of his 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Bacardi. “I got him when he was a young horse turning 7, and I produced him along the way. He is 10 this year, but I missed most of last year with him from my injury. He jumped the two-star grand prix here last year and then took until September off. I think a lot of the horse, and I think he is going to win a lot of things. We just have to get our steering a little better than it was tonight, but we still gave it a good try anyway.”