Sixty-five entries contested Thursday’s WEF Challenge Cup track set by Anderson Lima (BRA), with six horses qualifying to come back for the jump-off. When Babington and Mark Q entered the ring as the penultimate entry to return, Carly Anthony (USA) and Clochard, owned by Neil Jones Equestrian Inc., had set the time to beat at 44.13 seconds. However, Babington and his longtime partner, a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, would make short work of that time, shaving off more than four seconds to ultimately clinch the win with a time of 40.03 seconds.
Fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny was the last to return aboard Chinook II, owned by Veronica Tracy, and a time of 40.84 seconds would secure them the second-place honor and relegate Anthony and Clochard to third. Fourth place went to Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) and Hunters Conlypso II, owned by the Dacantos Group, with four faults in a time of 40.27 seconds. Margie Engle and Royce, owned by Gladewinds Partners LLC, took fifth with four faults and a time of 42.69 seconds, and Australia’s Rowan Willis finished in sixth after electing not to return for the jump-off with his own Blue Movie.
“With Darragh Kenny following me, it was a lucky day for me!” said Babington in describing his jump-off round. “[Mark Q] was great across the ring. He’s a lot of Thoroughbred, so he galloped like a racehorse across to the vertical.”
Babington purchased Mark Q as a seven-year-old, and the pair has accumulated a large number of noteworthy wins over the past decade – particularly on the grass.
“He’s just been a great partner,” said Babington of the gelding. “He’s good indoors. He’s good in the sun, but he loves the grass! He just loves the grass. For the older horses, I think it’s a little easier on them. He’s 17 now, but he doesn’t feel it. He’s probably one of the soundest horses that I have in the barn.
“My plan was to do another horse today, but then I was thinking, ‘You know what? He loves the grass,’” continued Babington. “The ground feels amazing. It’s a credit to them. We used small studs, and it was really good and held up.”
Babington will now likely aim Mark Q again at competition on the grass, when WEF jumper events return to the Equestrian Village during week six.