Lexington, Kentucky, USA – November 06, 2021 – One of the most highly anticipated events of the 2021 National Horse Show took the spotlight Saturday evening, bringing some of the world’s top show jumping athletes to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park. Fighting for the lion’s share of the prize money, valuable Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ points and a spot in the winner’s circle, 35 horse-and-rider combinations would vie for the winning title in the $213,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI4*-W, which serves as the third leg in the prestigious tour. Of the competitive pack representing 10 different countries, it was Kent Farrington (USA) and Gazelle who rode to victory as the only double-clear effort of the evening.
Time allowed would play a factor in the first round track crafted by Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR), knocking a number of competitors out of contention by going seconds over the clock through the winding path. A number of blind turns off of the rail would also pose a challenge to horses and riders throughout the 13-obstacle course. Captain Brian Cournane (IRL) was the first to navigate the course clear over the fences, but 2 unfortunate time faults aboard Armik prevented the pair from being the first to add their name to the jump-off roster. Four rounds later, Mark Bluman (COL) produced the first clear effort over the fences and on the clock aboard El Conde, owned by Francisco Pasquel. The United States’ Aaron Vale (USA) and Elusive, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, would force a tie breaking jump-off as the eleventh entry to contest. Seven others would add their names to the jump-off lineup, including Paul O’Shea (IRL), Natalie Dean (USA), Daniel Bluman (ISR), McLain Ward (USA), Tiffany Foster (CAN), Farrington (USA) and Margie Engle (USA).
Eight fences made up Cabral’s shortened jump-off course to challenge the field of international athletes one final time. Leaving plenty of space for athletes to gallop their mounts in hopes of shaving seconds off the clock, the track also featured a tight rollback off of the rail to fence three, a tall, skinny oxer that demanded scope and strength to clear. The pathfinder for the second round course was Mark Bluman and El Conde, acquiring 8 faults to leave the door wide open for the remaining eight pairs. Vale and Elusive were next to challenge the track, posting 4 faults to the scoreboard. Paul O’Shea would suffer the same fate after knocking two rails down aboard Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, with Natalie Dean (USA) immediately following to take down an early rail with Chance Ste Hermelle. Daniel Bluman would nearly forge the way with a double-clear effort, but Ladriano Z would catch an unlucky rail in the combination. However, the duo’s speedy time of 32.62 seconds was good enough to place them at the top of the leaderboard with just four contenders left to be seen.
Veteran show jumping athlete McLain Ward (USA) put forth a valiant effort aboard his 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ mount Contagious in the hopes of notching his sixth grand prix win at the National Horse Show. He navigated the 12-year-old DSP gelding through the timers in 32.60 seconds, but the double-combination would again be the source of 4 faults on course to leave room for the lead to change hands again. Foster was next to challenge, incurring yet another 4-faults on the scoreboard and stopping the timers in 33.17 seconds to leave her out of the running for a podium finish. The first double-clear round of the evening would be left up to the final two riders in the lineup.
As the second-to-last pair to contest Cabral’s track, Kent Farrington (USA) and Gazelle would deliver the fault-free ride the crowd had been waiting for. Spectators were on the edge of their seats as Farrington piloted the 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare through the track with ease, careful enough not to succumb to the mistakes of previous competitors. They would clear the timers without any rails on the ground in 35.960 seconds, good enough to slip into the lead.
Though Margie Engle (USA), the final competitor on course, would give her best effort aboard Dicas, a late rail on course would push her out of the running for a spot in the top three. In the end, Farrington emerged victorious with his and Robin Parsky’s mount Gazelle. Ward and Beechwood Stables’ Contagious had a quick enough 4-fault round to claim second place honors, with Daniel Bluman riding Blue Star Investments & Over the Top Stables, LLC’s Ladriano Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding, to round out the top three.
Winner’s Circle – Kent Farrington (USA) – $213,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI 4*-W winner
On the jump-off course:
“I only had one rider after me and I felt as though a neat clear round was a smart play. I have a very experienced horse, [Gazelle], and she has been an amazing horse for me and my career. Robin Parsky has been very supportive of my management of this horse and that is part of what has made her last so long, being able to move her up and drop her back. Today is a great way to gear up for other events. The first round, she was hyper careful so there was a little bit of jockeying around. I thought that the jump off was a good opportunity to let her settle down and go for a cruise and that worked out for me for the win.”
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“It is great to get back to normal. I grew up as a junior rider always watching this show. Even when I was riding in it, I would stay and watch the grand prix and watch the high level riders warm-up and try to learn and gain knowledge through what they were doing. It has always been a part of my calendar. I like supporting the best events in America, so hats off to the team here for continuing on through hard times and finding a way to keep it a great event. It will always be on my schedule.“
McLain Ward – $213,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI4*-W second place
On Bernardo Costa Cabral’s course:
“I think that Bernardo is a phenomenal course designer and I am always excited when I see his name on a prize list or a program because I always have confidence that it is going to be a good and fair test with a lot of horsemanship, and we as riders really appreciate that. When I walked the first round, I thought that it was a tough track and fairly delicate. The turn to the yellow oxer, fence six, was really a tough task and I questioned him about it a little bit. There were several other problems and it provided a good challenge. There were a fair bit of horses clear and it made for a nice jump off. “
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“Growing up, the National Horse Show was in New York and it was close to my home and I remember my father winning the grand prix in 1982 very clearly so it was always a very important event to aim towards. Unfortunately, I am now sitting here and thinking about the four times that I have been second. It is a great competition and it has set a very high standard over the years. My hats off over the last two years to the National Horse Show for forging on and running. Last year really was a triumph. I agree with Bill [Weeks] that as we get back to normal life, we should continue to have these great events.”
On keeping the National Horse Show on his competition calendar:
“All three of us are very privileged and lucky to travel all over the world to the very best events and championships, but if we abandon the events that are special on our own soil the quality will suffer. That is very important to all three of us and as we get a little later in our career, all of us are focused on trying to lend our support to and compete at the events that try to be at a world class level.”
Bill Weeks – Chairman of the National Horse Show
On hosting a Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ qualifier:
“It is nice to say that I think that we are finally getting back to normal – to have these amazing athletes here, in what I consider to be the finest equestrian venue in the country, and see top level sport is a pleasure. It does feel as if we are getting back to normal.”
Bernardo Costa Cabral – course designer
On the field of riders in the jump-off:
“I think that the jump-off went okay. It is a different perspective because there was not a clear round, and when Kent [Farrington] went in you could feel the crowd waiting for a clear round and it became thrilling in a different way. Not faster after faster rider, but to get a solid clear and then see what the last rider did.”
On designing courses at the National Horse Show:
“It is an honor to be here and I was very grateful to be chosen to build here at the National Horse Show. It was a humbling experience and I was very happy to be able to build a course for these super stars.”
Final Results – $213,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI 4*-W
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1) Kent Farrington (USA) & Gazelle / Kent Farrington & Robin Parsky – 0 / 0 – 35.960
2) McLain Ward (USA) & Contagious / Beechwood Stables – 0 / 0 – 32.600
3) Daniel Bluman (ISR) & Ladriano Z / Blue Star Investments & Over the Top Stables, LLC – 0 / 4 – 32.620
Source: Press Release by Georgie Hammond / Phelps Media Group for the National Horse Show
Photos: © Phelps Sports / Georgie Hammond