2015 Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final
Farrington Becomes the First American to Claim the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final
Rolex testimonee Kent Farrington was without question untouchable on Friday, December 11th, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland when he blew past the top riders in the world to bring home the United States’ first-ever Rolex International Jumping Riders Club Rolex Top Ten Final.
Or rather, it was the amazing Voyeur that was unbeatable with Farrington at the reins. The sizzling 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Tolano van’t Riethof x Goodwill) owned by Amalaya Investments was so on form in the two-round competition that he finished nearly a second and a half faster than France’s Simone Delestre in the second round.
Speed and accuracy are essential to winning the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final. Founded in 2001 by the International Jumping Riders Club and staged over two rounds with no jump-off, expectations were high. Similar to the ATP Finals in tennis, it is the only competition that rewards consistency throughout the season, by inviting the top ten ranked riders in the world to go head-to-head over two rounds of jumping.
To qualify for this special class, the FEI Jumping World Ranked top ten riders are invited, with any declined invitations being filled by the 11th, 12th in the world, and so on. By the numbers, it makes for the toughest show jumping class in the world. A big 1.60m Round 1 track determined the order that riders returned in Round 2, and eight of the ten were clear in Round 1, guaranteeing a race over the shortened Round 2 track.
Farrington was apprehensive after his first round. “Scott is fast, Bertram is fast. Well, they are all actually fast. I am really nervous right now, I hope they will go slow,” Farrington smiled afterwards.
Second-round clears in the course designed by Switzerland’s Gérard Lachat were proving hard to find until Farrington and Voyeur came into the arena. Living up to their deserved reputation as one of the fastest partnerships on the circuit, they sped around the course as the crowd held their collective breath, laying down a lightening fast 37.54-second round—it looked difficult to beat.
“In a competition like that you have the best riders in the world, and they are all incredibly fast. So going early in the jump-off, I decided I was really going to go for the win and try to put the pressure on everybody else. My horse is very fast, and I ride pretty fast, so luckily today it paid off,” Farrington said about his tactics.
Of course, in Farrington’s world, the meaning of “try” is to throw 110% effort behind every single stride, and Voyeur was right there with him moment to moment. When Farrington took the lead halfway through the order, there was still every chance in the world that he would be caught.
“I don’t think you’re ever comfortable with the kind of competition coming after you go,” Farrington said. “If there’s 20 left to go or two left to go, it doesn’t really matter when you have this level of sport and this level of rider.”
Although he won the Top Ten Final, Farrington tries to not get too focused on the ranking and where he finds himself on it. “I try and make my year based on the horses that I have, and the competitions where I want them to go well. I think a ranking is a consequence of good results but it is not something that I chase or worry about. I try to focus on winning big classes and I try to focus on having my horses on form for those days. I would like to be number one in the world one day, but I think that will happen all by itself without me doing anything different than I am already doing.”
On his winning horse Voyeur, Kent said: “He is a special horse, as I think many top horses are. He is a little bit difficult; he is quite a strong horse with a lot of blood so I think he has gotten better with age and experience. He has gotten more manageable than he was when I started. I try to keep his mind as calm as possible, and the jump-offs are actually easier than the first round because you can kind of let him go at his own speed and he really likes that. So, the first round is always a struggle to keep him calm and I do my best to let him not get too aggressive.”
As to next year and the Olympic Games in Rio, Farrington said modestly: “I think Voyeur has a very good chance, and I also have a couple of younger horses that I think could possibly do it, but that is still a bit away so we go one step at the time.”
For Farrington, who has earned a jaw-dropping haul of prizes from all around the world in 2015, bringing the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final trophy home with him is a satisfying mark on his last show of the year.
“All of us here would have loved to win this class,” Farrington said. “It’s turned into a really special class, they pay big prize money for it and it’s become a big part of the Geneva show. Competing against the best is always special; to have a Top Ten Final you really showcase the best in the sport. This is a great win for me today.”
Sources: World of Showjumping, The Chronicle of the Horse, NoelleFloyd.com