Farrington Takes Rolex Grand Prix

American Kent Farrington, riding his mare Greya, won the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule, beating his young countryman Karl Cook in second place and Belgian Grégory Wathelet in third, in a finish that the audience and riders will remember for a long time.

With a field of exceptional riders and horses, of which many are likely to shine during the forthcoming Olympic Games, the Grand Prix produced a moment of incredible intensity for this stage of the brand-new Rolex Series (La Baule, Dinard, Rome, Brussels, Dublin and Wellington). At the end of the day, the result was an American one-two, which was a very symbolic occurrence so near to the anniversary of the D-Day landings. Fourteen years after McLain Ward, who won in 2010 on Sapphire, Kent Farrington has become the second rider from the USA to write his name onto the roll of honour. He takes the crown from Belgian Nicola Phillipaerts, who triumphed last year with Katanga v/h Dingeshof.

Eleven duos made it through to the jump-off after a highly selective but subtle first round designed by Grégory Bodo, who will be track superintendent this summer in Versailles for the Olympic Games (in partnership with Spaniard Santiago Varela). The included Swiss riders Steve Guerdat (world # 3), Martin Fuchs (# 6) and Pius Schwizer, Belgians Grégory Wathelet (# 24) and Jérôme Guéry (# 41), Austrian Max Kühner (# 5), Americans Kent Farrington (# 7) and Karl Cook (# 29), as well as Kevin Staut (# 20).

When Karl Cook, who was second to start on his French mare Caracole de la Roque, completed his round in 34.21 seconds, most of the bets were on another success for the pupil of Éric Navet, two weeks after winning the Rolex Grand Prix in Rome. However, Kent Farrington on his ten-year-old mare Greya, took another 12/100ths of a second off his countryman’s time.

Back in the paddock, the remaining riders realized that this time the bar had been set too high and with the Olympic Games just a few weeks away, many riders preferred to play it ‘safe’ and not risk everything.

“I was very determined for the jump-off, of course, but to be honest, I always am,” insisted the day’s winner. “Greya is a mare I’ve been riding since she was four or five years old, who went to Europe but then came back to my country when she was 6 years old. She’s kind of my favourite. I have really taken my time to develop an understanding with her.

“I’m enjoying good results at the moment, but in our sport that can all change very quickly. You can go from hero to zero in the blink of an eye, but also from zero to hero. That’s life. I just try to remain focused on my job. In the jump-off, I had a little look at what Karl had done, but I prefer not to be too influenced by what others do and stick to my basic plan.

“For the Olympic Games, we’ll see once our team coach has made his decision, but I won’t be going there just to make up the numbers. At this point in my career, I’ll only be going if I have a chance of doing well.”

A man jumping a fence in France with a bay horse.

Shane Sweetnam abd Irandole du Flot won the Pays de la Loire Region Derby. (PSV Photo)

Pays de la Loire Region Derby: Shane Sweetnam maintains Ireland’s dominance

If you look hard enough, you’ll likely find a few shamrocks lying on the sublime grass pitch of the François André stadium in La Baule. Irish riders have dominated the Pays de la Loire Region Derby for the past few years. After Shane Breen last year and Denis Lynch in 2022, Shane Sweetnam, competing with the 10-year-old mare Irandole du Flot, again demonstrated his mastery of the art of the derby with a perfectly controlled run over the 1.50m and 21 obstacles on the course, ranging from the usual show-jumping elements (verticals, oxers, combinations, etc.) to natural ones (mound, ditch, counter-bottom, counter-high, etc.).

Last to take to the track, the world number 9 beat Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat by 2.57s on Easy Star de Talma, the only other clear round of the day on the new course designed by course conductor Grégory Bodo. “Winning the Derby at La Baule is always a tremendous victory. I’ve been riding this horse for two years, but this was his first Derby. I was confident, but you never know until you’ve jumped in this event. It’s the third successive Irish victory, which can no doubt be explained by the fact that we grew up galloping in the countryside. This form of riding is part of our culture. These events are great for us and the horses because they help in their training.”

Twenty-two-year-old British rider Lily Attwood was competing in her first derby, as was her horse Johnnie Walker. “It was great fun. I loved it. My first visit to La Baule was a great experience, and I’m in excellent company on the podium.”


Five people holding up a trophy on a podium.

The victorious German Team. (PSV Photo)

Barrière Nations Cup: Germany on top, France close behind

The exciting Nations’ Cup Barrière on Friday was not decided until the very end of the event. When Philipp Weishaupt, the last German rider, took to the track with Zineday, the tension in the stands peaked. Just before him, Roger-Yves Bost and Delph de Denat HDC’s clear round kept alive any French hopes of winning for the first time since 2017. On the Grégory Bodo-designed course, Weishaupt had the fate of his team in his hands: a clear round gave victory to Germany, ideally positioned by Kendra Claricia Brinkop (Tabasco de Toxandria Z), Marcus Ehning (Coolio 42) and Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria), while a single fault was enough to defy the French, who finished with 5 overall. Team Belgium placed third with 12 faults.

The German, who was already impeccable in the first heat, put in another excellent performance to lead his team to victory for the seventh time in La Baule, but for the first time since 2007.”I’m very proud to win after so many years,” says team leader Otto Becker. “I was on the team at the time! First and foremost, I’d like to thank the organisers because this is a tremendous competition at every level, with perfect conditions for the horses, riders, and great spectators. This victory is the upside of my work. Now we must choose the couples for the Olympic Games, which will be difficult because I have many excellent riders and horses. But that’s the job!”

The performance of his four pairs may make his choice more challenging. Weishaupt, for example, showed his composure with a decisive double clear round. “It’s the most exciting part of the Nations Cup when you’re the last to go, and you know you have to get a clear round,’ he says. Riding a horse like Zineday is a great pleasure and a fantastic opportunity. I’d also like to mention the crowd at La Baule and their incredible fair play. They were very respectful when I entered the arena when I could have deprived France of victory. And after my lap, they applauded loudly. Outstanding sportsmanship isn’t necessarily the norm everywhere. Here, all the riders feel very welcome. Thank you for that. It reinforces my choice to be here. I chose to compete in the Nations Cup, which I wanted to do before the Olympic Games. For me, it was an obvious decision to come to La Baule. The competition gets better and better every year.”

Marcus Ehning, also on the team in 2007, doesn’t hide his satisfaction with Coolio 42 (4+0). “It’s always a pleasure to come here to La Baule,” he explains. It’s been a long time since I’ve won anything. Coolio is a new horse; this was his first Nations Cup, and it’s very encouraging for the future.” 2021 European champion with DSP Chakaria, Andre Thieme, also did himself proud (0+4). “My mare wasn’t very competitive last year, and I didn’t qualify for the European Championships. I’m delighted to be back at this level. She’s getting stronger every week.”

Lastly, Kendra Clairica Brinkop, who has been soaring up the world rankings for the past several months and has produced excellent performances, including a double clear round last week in the Nations Cup at the CSIO 5* in Rome, also won by Germany, confirmed her rise in form with her nine-year-old Tabasco de Toxandria Z (4+0). “The last few months have indeed been very positive,” she says. “But when you have riders like that by your side, you want to be at the top of your game.”

All results here.

~ with files from Agence 15Love