Lexington, KY - May 19, 2011 - For tonight's $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic it was once again about speed in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. Continuing his streak at the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, Kent Farrington once again led the way, winning his second grand prix event in a row with Uceko. The duo dominated the fifteen horse jump-off, beating second place finisher Margie Engle and Lord Spezi by a full second.
Tonight's class was the second of seven grand prix events that make up the Hagyard Challenge Series, sponsored by Hagyard Medical Institute and presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Following the final event in the series, a cash prize of $45,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series for the Leading Rider Bonus.
Forty-two horse and rider combinations entered the ring to compete over Richard Jeffery's first round, which included an open water, a liverpool, a triple bar, a double combination, and a triple combination. The real test proved to be at the end of the night, as 15 riders advanced to the short course. For the jump-off, the returning entries began over the triple bar with an option of four or five strides to a vertical. They then made a sharp right turn to a single oxer before galloping towards a vertical-oxer double combination. Finally, riders made a tight left turn to a tall vertical and finished with a bending line over the last obstacle, a wide oxer.
"I think Richard wanted to give everybody a nice first round," commented Farrington after his win. "There are a bunch of new people, and this class is going under the lights. I asked him before the class and he said he didn't mind if there were 12 clear, I think that's the kind of class he was aiming for."
A big jump-off was exactly what happened. Farrington was the clear leader as the first rider to post a double clear round aboard Uceko, owned by RCG Farm. They blazed through the timers in 27.63, which proved to be an unmatchable feat.
"My horse has a very big step," explained Farrington. "The first line, doing three in the four, you obviously need a very big striding horse. We rolled back very short to the next fence and that's basically it. He's able to leave out strides all through the course with a really big gallop. That's his specialty."
The next three top finishers were separated by just one tenth of a second after the final tally, and all nine double clear rounds by just four seconds. Margie Engle and Ashland Farms' Lord Spezi clocked in at 28.60 to claim second, but Germany's Christian Heineking was right on her heels with River of Dreams, owned by Kai Handt, with a time of 28.79 seconds for third. Ian Millar was also just under 29 seconds, breaking the beam at 28.84 with Instyle, owned by Susan Grange, to finish fourth.
"I knew a lot of people had done three down the first line, but Lord Spezi is a smaller horse, so I thought I would do the four and just try to be really quick back on the oxer, and he did that really well," said Engle. "Then I took a shot at the vertical. I knew the seven would be forward. I think it was close right until the last jump. I was kicking him up to it, but he was kind of wondering if I really wanted to leave from that far away and tried backing up to fit in another step. He tried really hard at it but we lost a little time there, I had a hard enough time staying on over the last jump. It was really far away, and being small, it's hard to leave out too many strides on him. He went great though, and I was very happy with him."
Ian Millar also claimed the fifth place prize at the end of the night, finishing a double clear effort in 29.13 with Star Power, owned by Team Works. The sixth place award went to last week's winner, Hector Florentino and Stransky's Misson Farms' Ultimo, who clocked in at 30.16. Jonathon Millar stopped the timers at 30.77 with Contino 14, owned by The Millar Group, for the seventh place award. Tiffany Foster and Victor, owned by Artisan Farms, were slightly more conservative to finish in 31.75 seconds for eighth. Jonathan McCrea rounded out the riders that were perfect over both rounds, showing Colorado, owned by Candy Tribble, to a time of 31.82 seconds for ninth.
The Kentucky Spring Horse Shows have proved to be hugely successful for Farrington, who won the $55,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix and the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic, all following his victory in the $200,000 American Invitational earlier this year with Uceko. After a brief hiatus, Farrington is thrilled to have the talented mount back in his arsenal. Although he is best known for his numerous victories with Up Chiqui, Farrington hopes that Uceko will soon follow in those hoof prints.
"Up Chiqui was an incredibly fast horse and he was just a born winner," noted Farrington. "Uceko had to learn how to win. He's a really rangy, scopey horse, so he had to learn to turn really sharply to fences and things like that in order to make up time, otherwise he was always too slow. He's a little different type of horse. I can only hope that he turns into a winner like that."
Farrington has ridden the nine-year-old KWPN gelding since he was seven, and they have continued to grow together. "I know the horse really well, and you learn what risks you can take with the horses that you ride," he explained. "With him, an advantage is that he is scopey and that he is brave, and sometimes you can make a really good cut on a jump. He's in good form right now, so I want him to stay healthy and ramp up for the summer."
The $45,000 Leading Rider Award offered through the Hagyard Challenge Series is something that Farrington is very familiar with, having won the honor two years in a row. "I think it's great when there are bonus incentives and things like that for professional riders," he said. "The more things in the sport that help riders make money for riding and competing is awesome. Grand prix money here doesn't compare like it does in Europe, so everything helps."
All of the events for the Hagyard Challenge Series will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park, which offers a wonderful venue for riders. "I think it's a tremendous facility," noted Farrington. "The fact that they have footing that can be used in any condition and a ring that can have different atmospheres is great for younger horses."
The Kentucky Spring Classic will continue tomorrow in the Rolex Stadium with the Open Jumper classes and the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers. On Saturday night, the highlight event will be the $55,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, followed by the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic on Sunday morning.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
RESULTS: $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
1 395 UCEKO KENT FARRINGTON 0 0 0 76.640 0 0 0 27.630
2 1084 LORD SPEZI MARGIE ENGLE 0 0 0 78.000 0 0 0 28.600
3 434 RIVER OF DREAMS CHRISTIAN HEINEKING 0 0 0 76.090 0 0 0 28.790
4 570 INSTYLE IAN MILLAR 0 0 0 79.640 0 0 0 28.840
5 569 STAR POWER IAN MILLAR 0 0 0 75.840 0 0 0 29.130
6 1009 ULTIMO HECTOR FLORENTINO 0 0 0 79.320 0 0 0 30.160
7 566 CONTINO 14 JONATHON MILLAR 0 0 0 79.920 0 0 0 30.770
8 26 VICTOR TIFFANY FOSTER 0 0 0 76.890 0 0 0 31.750
9 320 COLORADO JONATHAN MCCREA 0 0 0 81.400 0 0 0 31.820
10 568 COSTA RICA Z AMY MILLAR 0 0 0 75.470 4 0 4 28.260
11 137 CHIRON S PAIGE JOHNSON 0 0 0 74.430 4 0 4 28.500
12 526 TOP GUN AMY MILLAR 0 0 0 78.780 4 0 4 31.270
Photo Credit: Kent Farrington and Uceko Win $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Spring Classic. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.