TAMPA — For the first time in the long history of the $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, two riders and their mounts tied for first place in a jumpoff.
Kent Farrington, with 12-year-old Belgian-bred Up Chiqui, and Darragh Kerins, with 10-year-old Belgian-bred Night Train, rode faultless final rounds at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Sunday and finished with a tying time of 32.63 seconds.
"I think we're both thrilled with how our horses performed," said Farrington, 28, of Wellington and Fairfield, Conn. Both horses were fast and careful, he said. Farrington and Kerins, 34, a native of Ireland, split the first and second prize money of $39,000.
A field of 46 riders and horses from the United States and eight other countries, including Russia and Turkey, rode a tough course of 16 jumping efforts. Four riders made it though the course without knockdowns: Farrington and Kerins; McLain Ward with Phillipa, and Christine McCrea with Promised Land.
In the jumpoff, Ward had one knockdown to place fourth, earning $6,000. McCrea was clear but her time wasn't as fast as the winners', so she placed third, taking home $9,750.
The trouble spots on the course designed by Pierre Jolicoeur were the fifth obstacle, consisting of three jumps, and the 12th obstacle, two wide fences.
The fifth obstacle's middle jump was especially tricky, taking its toll on 17 horses. The last combination destroyed the hopes of several horse-and-rider combinations that had made it through the course clear, only to knock down the last fence.
"I didn't think the course was as difficult as it was when we walked it," Kerins said.
But as the show progressed and riders failed to go clean, Kerins, who rode toward the end, said he was able to study the other riders' mistakes.
He said he had to be patient through the triple combination. The last double combination was at an odd angle that threw off many teams, he said.
Neither Farrington nor Kerins plans to compete in Saturday's $200,000 American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium. They want to rest their horses before participating in the World Cup on April 15-19 in Las Vegas.