Farrington and Uceko to defend American Invitational crown

Kent Farrington and Uceko, winners of the 2011 Gene Mische American Invitational
Kent Farrington and Uceko, winners of the 2011 Gene Mische American Invitational. © Parker/Russell

Defending Gene Mische American Invitational champions Kent Farrington and Uceko will try for a  rare second win in the event next month when the “Super Bowl of Show Jumping” returns to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

This year marks the 40th anniversary for the enduring classic.  For Farrington and Uceko to win a second time, much less in back to back years, the dynamic duo will have to defy the odds. Over long and storied 40-year history of America’s greatest show jumping test, only two horses have ever put together back to back wins and only four horses in total have been able to win the event twice.

The first back to back winners were Michelle McEvoy (Grubb) and her flashy chestnut Sundancer in the second and third year of the event’s existence back in 1974 and 1975, and then illustrating the extreme challenge that the American Invitational provides, it was over a quarter of a century before that difficult feat was accomplished again, when Molly Ashe and Kroon Gravin won in consecutive years in 2001 and again in 2002.

So that’s the history and those are the long odds that Farrington will face when he returns to Raymond James Stadium.

“It’s obviously one of the most prestigious classes in the world to win, and at the same time, it’s also one of the toughest to win,” Farrington said.

“Big money, big jumps, big crowd, it’s a fantastic class and while the odds say it’s possible to win it in back to back years, because it’s such a difficult test of horse and rider, it’s not probable. That’s not to say we won’t be out there trying to become the third pair to ever do it,” he said. “That would be incredible.”

Farrington spoke of the honor in winning the American Invitational the first time.  “This is a class you really want to win. I grew up as child watching the great ones riding in this class. I have all of the old videos of the great riders like Ian Millar and Rodney Jenkins and Michael Matz winning this class, so to have my named added to that list of winners is very, very special,” he said.

Kent Farrington
Kent Farrington. ©Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com

Two other horses have won the Invitational twice, but not in back to back years. Seven Wonder was a winner with David Raposa in 1990 and then again with Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Kappler in 1995.

And then in 2005 and again in 2007, double Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden and her Olympic partner Authentic led the victory gallop in Tampa.

The $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational takes place on Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. The gates at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium open at 5:30pm.

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