Wellington, Fla.—March 3
What do you get when you gather the best riders at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, ask them to tack up their best horses and ride in a major grand prix during Nations Cup week ? An amazing jump-off.
In the end, it came down to the smallest of margins, with Kent Farrington taking blue ahead of Beezie Madden and Cortes ‘C’, the winner here two weeks ago, by just .01 seconds. Conor Swail, newly reunited with his old partner Lansdowne, edged out McLain Ward and Antares F for third.
Farrington just paired up with Lauren Hough’s old ride, Blue Angel, at the start of circuit, and though they’re still getting to know each other, that mare’s just his ride.
“It’s a special horse that’s actually the type of horse I grew up riding, a more Thoroughbred-y type,” said Farrington, Wellington, Fla. “We had a lot of horses off the racetrack, and I used to race ponies as a kid, so I’m used to riding small, hot horses like that. That’s sort of right up my alley.”
Now that the 12-week circuit has cleared the hump, jumper prize money’s starting to inch up, and the quality of the start list reflected that. Anthony D’Ambrosio’s track sliced the 53 starters down to 11 in the jump-off. Tiffany Foster, who logged a brilliant double clear on Nations Cup night for Canada, ran into trouble coming into the last combination, stopping twice at a brush box oxer to head back to the barn early. Catherine Pasmore, who stood out in last night’s Young Rider Nations Cup  competition, headed back to the barn early with Vandavid as well.
In the jump-off, Madden and Cortes didn’t look nearly as fast as the clock recorded.
“For a big horse he covers the ground fast, actually, and that’s nice” said Madden. “I think he doesn’t look like he’s going fast because he just pricks his ears and pokes his nose and canters and jumps. He does that for the first round and the jump-off.”
Farrington got the edge with a super snug turn to the last, and turned it on up the last line, encouraged by the big crowd at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center.
Chill R Z and Charlie Jayne were on form to post the first clear in the 11-horse jump off, but Ward and Antares F edged ahead. Janne Friederike Meyer put in a clear round on Cellagon Lambrasco for fourth. Last to go, Laura Kraut and Cedric, fresh off helping the United States score their Nations Cup win, tried to catch Farrington, ticking a pair of rails in the process.
An extra-long start list?
Thursday’s WEF Challenge Cup was run as a speed class instead of a qualifier for today's grand prix thanks to changes in the schedule in the wake of the EHV-1 scare  in the FEI tent earlier this week.
What’s With All The Pink?
Plenty of riders around the showgrounds—including McLain Ward, Candice King and Katie Dinan—decked themselves and their horses out in pink this week to raise awareness for the American Cancer Society. They’re also raising money for the cause, which culminates in a fundraiser tonight.
For more on Farrington’s secrets to success and all the news from Nations Cup week, pick up the March 18 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine,  which is also our annual Hunter/Jumper breeding issue.
For full results, visit showgroundslive.com .
You can also watch the class on demand courtesy of USEF Network.