Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui Win Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championships Presented by Equine Motorcoach; Ward Wins $100,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier
Joanie Morris, US Equestrian Federation
The only clear round in the second leg of the Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship presented by Equine Motorcoach wasn’t enough to wrestle the title away from the consistently impressive combination of Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui. They were the fastest of the four faulters on Sunday, but their stellar performance in the first round on Friday compounded into the best score over the two days. Last year’s winner, McLain Ward, riding the stylish 9-year-old Dutch mare Phillipa, was relegated to second place by one point. Ward won the $100,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier (which served as leg two) but the new Rolex watch and the national championship title belong to Farrington.
An incredibly consistent duo, Farrington and the diminutive Up Chiqui (owned by Alex Boone, James McNerney and Craig Dobbs), looked like they were going to force a jump off with Ward after easily negotiating nearly all of Pierre Jolicoeur's challenging course. Up Chiqui thought very quickly through the difficult related line from fence 11 to the triple combination at 12, and the pair was clear through there but got to a long distance at the penultimate fence. Up Chiqui reached as far as he could but it wasn't quite enough to make the back rail of the oxer, leaving them with four faults at the end of the second round. That meant they lay fourth in Sunday's portion of the championship but beat Ward by one point overall.
“My horse tried his heart out,” said Farrington who hails from Chicago, IL. “He really wanted to win today. I'm thrilled with my horse but disappointed in myself. I was coming around the corner and thinking about the time, I went to move up and he was a split second behind my leg and had it down. It's great to have a national championship but I really wanted to win today.”
Up Chiqui, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood, and Farrington have been very successful this year picking up Grand Prix wins in Florida, Kentucky and Massachusetts. It was a fitting end to the season for them to be crowned the 2007 Rolex/USEF National Champions.
“He's been incredible all year,” said Farrington, 26. “He's incredibly consistent. I've still yet to see what he can and can't do so I look forward to next year. He'd be more geared toward the World Cup Final than the Olympic Trials but it's a long way off so we'll see. He tries really hard.”
Ward lay seventh after the first round, but with Sunday afternoon's class counting for double points, Ward's clear round proved valuable. Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold were third overall after jumping clear but added one time fault for finishing one-tenth of a second over the time allowed.
“I knew I dodged a bullet when Margie had a time fault,” said Ward about avoiding the jump-off. “It's not very often to win big class without a jump-off. This course was considerably more difficult than Friday's. It was more technical and considerably bigger. Today was real grand prix jumping and the good combinations rose to the top.”
Phillipa, owned by Sagamore Farm, has only been competing at this level since May and adds another valuable weapon to Ward’s arsenal supplementing his very experienced Olympic veteran, Sapphire.
“She’s not very experienced but she has phenomenal talent,” said Ward. “It’s kind of exciting because obviously Sapphire is still ready for the Olympics this year and to have this horse coming along gives me a great one-two punch.”
Ward, who celebrated his three week wedding anniversary along with his win, heads to Maui on Monday morning for his honeymoon.