For the first time this week, the American national anthem rang out across the green oval at CSIO Rome Piazza di Siena this afternoon when Kent Farrington (38) posted an emphatic victory in the Loro Piana Small Grand Prix.
Riding the formidable 13-year-old mare, Gazelle, the man who took team silver and individual fifth place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games set the pace in the five-horse jump-off against the clock, and he couldn’t be caught.
Farrington is currently lying eighth as he works his way back up the world rankings after an injury break last year. He suffered a compound fracture of a leg in a fall in Wellington, Florida (USA) in February 2018, but he was back riding and competing 11 weeks later. “The recovery was very fast. I trained really hard, I was super-eager to get back, and now the goal is to try to get back to No. 1 (in the rankings) and to have the horses all in the best form for the biggest classes”, he said today.
Course designer, Uliano Vezzani, set them a tough first-round track, with questions that only five of the 59 starters managed to solve. When Farrington threw down a jump-off target time of 40.70 he could only sit back and wait to see if it was quick enough.
“With the calibre of riders that are here, you are never safe to know you have won the class until its finished because they’re all top riders, and they’re all capable of winning. But I was happy when the class was over and we were still on top!” he said afterwards.
Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Silver Shine hit the vertical after the turn-back to fence eight, but it was the Loro Piana planks, two fences later, that put paid to the chances of Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Jasmien VD Bisschop. Italy’s Paolo Adorno however left all the poles in place with another lovely round from his nine-year-old gelding Fer ZG, a horse that was twice Italian National Champion as a six and seven-year-old. They crossed the line in 45.19 seconds but when new young Swiss star, 27-year-old Yannick Jorand who has been seriously impressive all week, was foot-perfect with Cipetto in 44.9 then the Italian rider had to settle for third place behind him.
Adorno was still truly delighted. “Mama mia, what an immense joy! This is a great boys race, and I’m even on the podium! In the jump-off I knew it was necessary to go very fast to win but I was afraid of running into a mistake. Fer is only nine years old, has a huge heart and lots of courage - I’m so happy!”, he said.
Talking about his winning horse, Gazelle, Farrington said, “she’s very fast and very careful, so high-speed riding is sort of her forte. I was trying to leave a bit in the tank because we still have the Grand Prix tomorrow. Hopefully we can hold form” he added.
He’s enjoying his latest visit to the Eternal City. “Rome has always been one of the most beautiful shows that we have on our calendar, and Rolex has really taken it to the next level. They’ve made the arena grass again and it’s fantastic, I love riding on grass and I think the horses really appreciate it, and there’s no better setting than here with an amazing crowd and so much history!”, he said.
He’ll be hoping to become part of that history when the €400,000 Rolex Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow at 12.15 local time. Ph Simone Ferarro / CONI