July 14, 2014–The ‘Pan American’ Tournament CSI 5* at Spruce Meadows concluded on Sunday with a fantastic win for Kent Farrington (USA) and Uceko in the $400,000 Pan American Cup presented by Rolex. The pair set an uncatchable pace in the jump-off that left McLain Ward (USA) and Rothchild to finish second. Egypt’s Sameh el Dahan and Suma’s Zorro concluded a great summer series with a third place finish.
International course designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) set the track for the summer’s final grand prix with 33 entries and six to advance to the jump-off where four riders jumped double clear rounds over the short course. Farrington and RCG Farm’s Uceko were first to clear the jump-off course, and set the unbeatable pace of 35.33 seconds to win.
Sameh el Dahan and Suma’s Zorro, owned by el Dahan and Joanne Sloan-Allen, were next to jump clear in 37.29 seconds to earn third place honors. Next to go, Ward and Sagamore Farm’s Rothchild jumped into second in 36.66 seconds. Jumping last, Quentin Judge (USA) and Double H Farm’s HH Copin van de Broy were clear in 37.40 seconds to finish fourth.
With the winners share of $132,000, Farrington joined Spruce Meadows’ million dollar club for career earnings. In the jump-off, the rider hoped to be fastest, but knew the win was not certain with the riders that were still to follow.
“McLain has been beating me all week. I think he has won every class,” Farrington noted. “I hate sitting there and having to wait for him and the other riders to come after me. That’s not really my favorite thing. I would prefer to go last and know that it was over.”
Farrington’s finish was over one second faster than Ward this time, and Uceko got his second big win of the summer after nearly six months off from competition. The 13-year-old KWPN gelding (Celano x Koriander) never skipped a beat.
“I am thrilled with him. He took a long break,” Farrington stated. “He has always gone great here at Spruce Meadows and my plan all along was to build him up and jump him in the last grand prix. Last week he had a good win in the big class. He actually was ready to go a little bit sooner than what I thought. He feels great. He feels better than he even did last year, and I look forward to him for the rest of the summer as well.”
“I think like any partnership with a rider over time, I know the horse better, and he knows me better,” Farrington said of his relationship with Uceko. “I know his strengths and his weaknesses, which helps me strategize my jump-offs or even my first round plan. I think that over time you have better success, or more consistent success, with a horse as you know them better.”
Speaking about his strategy on Sunday, Farrington detailed, “I thought the courses this week have been excellent – very difficult. I thought the 1.50m yesterday was a real test as well. It was careful, but at the same time scopey. Today for the grand prix he wanted a few clear rounds so there would be a jump-off. I think if you asked him before the class, he would have told you he wanted six or seven clear, and that is exactly what he got.”
With back to back wins this week, including a jump-off against Uceko on Friday, Ward went as fast as he could with Rothchild, but had to settle for second place today.
“Catching Kent is always difficult,” Ward admitted. “We have an ongoing battle that I think we both love and hate. I knew his horse had a bigger stride than mine did today. He got me with his stride last week in a big class, so I was a little bit concerned. My horse bucks a little bit, particularly when you try to go fast. He bucked after the China oxer and I didn’t get the vertical I wanted and ended up adding a stride to the last fence. For sure in the plan you would like those things to go a bit smoother and maybe it would have been a little bit closer. The horse performed great. I am certainly a little disappointed not to win, but this is a worthy victor and if I am going to lose to anybody, I would want to lose to him.”
“The last couple of years have been remarkable,” Ward said of Rothchild’s step to the next level. “He has always been a very good horse for me. We know each other very well. Kent spoke about how important the relationship is. I asked more of this horse in the last two years and not only has he handled it, but he is really starting to shine. I really enjoy this horse. I think he has a lot of heart and he gives me a lot, so I am going to try to continue it the same way.”
Sameh el Dahan was very happy to be in the company of two of the world’s top riders with his third place finish aboard Suma’s Zorro. The rider from Egypt moved to Europe three and a half years ago to further his career and has had a great season.
“This year especially, I have had so many wins and I could not be happier with a good finish to the tour,” el Dahan stated. “I had a good summer season here. My horses jumped fantastic the whole time.”
“This mare I have ridden since she was seven and we have kind of grown up together,” the rider said of Suma’s Zorro. “We at Sycamore Stables normally don’t push our young ones so much, so she didn’t do a lot as a seven and eight-year-old, and then last year we pushed her a little more as a nine-year-old.”
“Since last week she has been jumping the bigger tracks and she has always been in the prize givings,” el Dahan said. “She has a heart of gold and she is all that you can ask for in a horse – lots of heart, very careful, and always fights for you. She fights at every fence. I am very happy to have her.”
Course designer Uliano Vezzani had a great week building courses at Spruce Meadows for the first time, and concluded his time, declaring, “Fantastic results, fantastic riders. This is my first experience at Spruce Meadows and the arena and the fences are all tops. I am very happy.”
Wrapping up a wonderful summer series, Farrington summed things up nicely.
“I just want to say on behalf of all the riders, a special thank you to the Southern Family and Spruce Meadows, and to Rolex,” he acknowledged. “It really brings the sport here in North America to a new level and it helps us stay on par with the best riders in the world. I think that this really is one of the best tournaments in the world.”