Thirty-three horse and rider combinations went head-to-head in the biggest “Saturday Night Lights” event of the 2017 season at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) featuring the $380,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* competition in front of the packed stands of the George H. Morris Arena. Ultimately the FEI World Number One Kent Farrington (USA) captured top honors aboard Gazelle, owned by Farrington and Robin Parsky. Eugenio Garza (MEX) and longtime mount Bariano finished in second place with a jump-off time of 35.918 seconds. Richie Moloney (IRL) and Carrabis Z stopped the timers in 35.637 seconds and added four faults for third place.
The jump-off brought back only three riders to contest the short course and had the entire venue of 9,000 spectators on their feet as they watched the top three combinations take on the competitive course designed by Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER). Farrington and the 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare (Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Diva ‘Ter Elsen’), stopped timers after an incredibly quick round ending in 34.676 seconds.
While Farrington emphasized that tonight’s course was very difficult, he also acknowledged that his mount is not easily stumped by hard questions.
“Gazelle is a very experienced horse, so I think that I have the advantage that she’s been around the world and seen a lot of things. They’d have to build something crazy that she hasn’t seen before,” he said. “The ring rides smaller than it looks. The jumps come up fast and with a lot of people I think it’s more difficult for the horses than you would expect when you first walk the course. I think it was an excellent course, and Olaf is a very good builder. I expected five clear, and we ended up with three, so I thought it was a stronger course for a bigger money class, which was appropriate for today.”
Despite the tense competitive environment and exciting atmosphere, Farrington commented that Gazelle is a reliable athlete in these kinds of situation. “She’s a very sweet horse at home. She likes everybody and she likes attention, but in the ring she’s an unbelievable competitor,” he explained. “I don’t know how many Grand Prix classes she’s won this year, but I always can count on her and when she’s in the jump-off I can really call on her and take big risks. She’s incredibly careful, so I’m not worried about the jumps, but try to not make any mistakes and stay out of her way.”