By Julie Claire Ma
Northwestern University student Charlise Casas spent six weeks in Calgary Canada competing at Spruce Meadows, one of the most prestigious and competitive show jumping venues in the world.
Casas achieved a big win on July 10, the final day of the Summer Series of tournaments, with a win in the CSI 2* $75,000 Lafarge Grand Prix CSI2*. Casas bested her coach, former World No. 1 Kent Farrington in a narrow jump-off.
“I told him I’d beat him one day,” Casas said.
Both Casas and Chicago-native Farrington rode clear in the first round before returning for the shortened course. Casas went early, leaving all the jumps up and setting a blazing time of 39.15 with her grey Belgian Warmblood mare, Mustique VZ. Farrington and his mount, Chato Lou, were unable to catch them, finishing in 40.28 seconds.
“This was my first two-star grand prix with this horse so I told myself, even if I had one rail down or two, I’m going to be incredibly happy. This is definitely the best outcome I could have predicted. Mustique VZ really stepped up the plate. I’m really impressed by her and it was fun,” Casas said.
Casas is no stranger to Spruce Meadows, regarded as one of the best show jumping venues in North America. “This is my fourth time here. The rings are amazing, the spaces here are so much larger, the grades are more difficult. Every single time I come here, I love it,” she said.
Casas grew up riding at Littlewood Farm in Libertyville, IL before switching to work with Farrington in her later high school years. Casas plans to pursue show jumping professionally once she graduates next year from cognitive science, linguistics and global health at Northwestern University. “We have a farm called Always Faithful Stables in Chicago, so I get to balance my academics with my horses. In the future I hope to build my program out of that barn, and it’s a great privilege my parents are giving me that opportunity.
“I would love to do it all,” she added. “In 20 years, my biggest goal is to be one of the biggest trainers out of the Midwest and really dominate the Chicago market. I hope to win a five star grand prix, be on Nation’s Cup teams, build name recognition.”
Exposure to horses at a young age through extended family turned Casas onto horses. “They put me on one of their horses and my dad—He always jokes, it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life because of how expensive the industry is. Ever since that day I was relentless in asking to ride another horse. It was love at first sight.”
Farrington won the $75,000 Scotiabank Cup on Friday July 8, riding Orafina. Farrington had racing aspirations in his early years in Chicago, but switched to show jumping after seeing it on television. “I wanted to be a jockey when I started. I did some pony racing. Then I fell in love with jumping. I actually saw Spruce Meadows on TV at my grandparents’ house – the richest grand prix in the world. I thought, that looks like what I want to do. Big money, big crowd, big jumps. I said I’m going to try to get there.” Farrington is the third total prize money winner at Spruce Meadows, having won a cumulative total of over four million dollars.
Another Farrington student, Hilary McNerney, won the $40,000 ATCO Cup on Friday July 8th riding her speed horse Astilbe. “We bought her to be a speed horse, teach me to go fast – and she definitely does that,” McNerney said. “It’s pretty special to ride a horse like that.”
McNerney, 31, began training with Farrington when she was 16. “My parents owned the horse Up Chiqui, one of Kent’s first [top] horses, so that’s how we got acquainted. He introduced me to this world,” she explained. “He’s a great trainer—great program, great horses.”
Look for Team KPF at the Spruce Meadows ‘Continental’ and ‘Masters’ tournaments, Sept. 1-11, 2022.
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