Moments after beating 25 riders for first place in the President's Cup Grand Prix last night at the Washington International Horse Show, Kent Farrington fielded an inevitable question: How was he going to spend the $30,000 in prize money?
"Wisely, I hope," he said, struggling in vain to conceal a grin.
It was the perfect answer on a near-perfect night for the 24-year-old Chicago native, who, despite being one of the youngest riders in the field, rode Madison to a blistering time of 32.22 seconds in the nine-jump jump-off. Farrington's victory was the highlight of a top-three sweep by Americans in a field splashed with top European riders at MCI Center.
Farrington edged 2000 U.S. Olympian Laura Kraut of Oconomowoc, Wis., and her horse Anthem by .22 of a second. Kraut's second-place finish earned her $22,000, while 1991 President's Cup champion Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Fla., rode Flier to third place, earning $13,000.
The three riders topped a list of seven riders who cleared all 11 jumps in the opening round of the Grand Prix, thus earning spots in the jump-off. After British four-time Olympian Nick Skelton's horse, Arko III, knocked over a plank on the opening run of the jump-off, Minikus aced the course in 34.06.
"I watched Todd . . . he's one of the fastest riders in the world," Farrington said. "I knew I had to go really fast because I wasn't really sure if that [time] was even possible for me."
Two riders later, Farrington and Madison, the American Grand Prix horse of the year, raced through the course at a rate none of the three remaining riders could match. Kraut came closest.
"I didn't see Kent go, but I knew how fast he is. I heard his time and I knew it was going to be very hard to beat," she said.
Minikus, 43, and Kraut, 40, are established show-jumping veterans, while Farrington, who turned professional six years ago, had never won an event this big. But his youth, Minikus said, may have been his ticket to the winner's circle. Whereas other riders may have slowed their pace once or twice in navigating the taut course, Farrington went full-bore.
"Lauren and I are a little bit long in the tooth," Minikus said, smiling. "Junior here doesn't understand you can get hurt."