‘I dedicate my life to this’: top rider aims for sport’s richest prize

The fact he will be going for a second consecutive win in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping on Sunday (8 September) at the Spruce Meadows Masters will be “an added bonus”, Kent Farrington said.

The US rider is the live contender for the grand slam, having won the Aachen grand prix on Gazelle in July. And while the €1m (£895,000) bonus is on offer for winning three of the four associated grands prix in a row, as taken by Scott Brash in 2015, there is also a €500,000 bonus for winning two in a row.

But asked whether this will put him under more pressure in the Spruce Meadows class on Sunday, Kent said: “The ironic thing is, I always put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself.

“The good thing about that is that it never changes; because there’s always that huge pressure, you can’t add any more. I think the best way to be comfortable in that sort of situation is to do it all the time.

“I always want to win and it always feels important. I dedicate my life to doing this and to me it doesn’t change; it will be like any other Sunday – for me [the Rolex Grand Slam] is an added bonus!”

Kent described winning in Aachen as “a dream come true”.

“It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest grands prix in our sport,” he said.

“And it always has been; it’s been won by the best riders and horses of all time so to be part of that was a dream come true.”

Kent gave away the first Rolex watch he won – to his sister, who worked for him for nothing when he was starting out – but he kept the Aachen one for himself.

“My sister worked for me for free and she said she wanted a watch but I had to win it; it took me a while but I got there; that was the start of my journey.

“But I thought maybe I’ll keep the Aachen one.”

Kent described Gazelle, on whom he intends to contest Sunday’s big class, as “the epitome of a modern showjumper” – very sensitive, extremely careful and with the power to jump the biggest tracks.

The 13-year-old had a break in the field after Aachen, and then was brought back into competition at 1.30m and 1.40m level, which Kent says he does a lot to keep the mare sweet between grands prix.

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Kent said she has been jumping at Spruce Meadows since she was eight, and with her experience in the international arena, and specifically in this Masters grand prix, this gives him a “good set-up” for Sunday.

“The course is going to be big, with a short time allowed; they’re two things the class is known for, which make it difficult to jump clear,” he said. “There are a lot of good challengers but when you’re in the ring, you’re with the horse, who’s your team-mate, and the challenge is the course in front of you, and you can only do the best you can.

“It’s going to be me and the horse and we’re going to do our best – the rest is out of our control.”

>> As told during a Rolex round table event at the Spruce Meadows Masters. Don’t miss the full report from the show in next week’s H&H magazine, out 12 September.