Todd Minikus and Babalou in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, Moti Ferder, President of Lugano Diamonds, and Stuart Winston, Vice President Sales and Marketing of Lugano Diamonds. Photo (c) Sportfot
The 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival concluded its eighth week of competition on Sunday with a win for Todd Minikus (USA) and Two Swans Farms' Babalou 41 in the $150,000 Grand Prix CSIO 4*, presented by Lugano Diamonds. The pair led a 10 horse jump-off with a top three finish for the United States in this week's final CSIO competition. Beezie Madden (USA) and Simon finished second, and Meagan Nusz (USA) and Dynamo placed third.
The Hollow Creek Farm Children's, Junior and Young Rider Grand Prix classes as well as the conclusion of their Nations Cup team events were also held on Sunday. Team USA swept all three Nations Cups, while Thales Gabriel de Lima Marino (BRA) won the Children's Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Gaspar (MEX) topped the Junior Grand Prix, and Spencer Smith (USA) was victorious in the Young Rider Grand Prix.
Anthony D'Ambrosio (USA) was the course designer for international competition in week eight. In Sunday's CSIO 4* grand prix, D'Ambrosio saw 49 starters with ten clear rounds. The top three U.S. entries were the only ones to jump double clear over the short course.
Nusz and Amalaya Investments' Dynamo were the first pair to go clear in round two and set the pace at 38.71 seconds, eventually placing third. Two rounds later, Minikus upped the leading time to 35.77 seconds with Babalou 41. Last to go, Madden and Abigail Wexner's Simon stopped the clock in 37.47 seconds to move into second place. Andres Rodriguez (VEN) had the fastest four-fault round in the jump-off with Arao Enterprises' Caballito to place fourth in 36.86 seconds. McLain Ward (USA) and Double H Farm's HH Carlos Z had the fastest round in 35.42 seconds, but dropped two rails along the way to finish eighth.
Watch Todd Minikus and Babalou 41 in their jump-off round here: http://bit.ly/1wC7D3k
After jumping double clear rounds to lead the U.S. team to victory in Friday night's $100,000 Nations Cup, presented by Kingsland Equestrian, Minikus and Babalou 41 continued their top form into Sunday afternoon. Minikus spoke about how the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Balou du Rouet x Silvio I) was carefully brought along, competing in the schooling jumpers for a long time before stepping up to higher levels. The time and effort have paid off, and Babalou is showing more experience and maturity with every outing.
"That was a nice week. I would like to thank Lugano Diamonds for their support today, and I would like to thank Two Swans Farm and Purina," Minikus acknowledged after Sunday's win. "Quality Girl got the week off, and Babalou is starting to step up into the big leagues and she is doing a great job of it. I am very excited about her. I kind of took it easy with her at the beginning of the circuit and hopefully she can continue to be strong here at the end of the circuit. There are some bigger things coming, so I could not be happier. She has been fantastic."
"She was too exuberant about her jump when she was younger, so we had to tone it down a little bit, which is usually not the story," Minikus detailed on Babalou's development. "She always was a little bit of a fractious mare, and she has really calmed down now. She was always nervous about everything - the surroundings, the tractor, the water truck, that kind of thing, so now she barely notices that kind of stuff, which is just maturity."
Commenting on his jump-off round, Minikus explained, "I saw Meagan go from outside in the schooling area, and Meagan looked like she had a real nice round. I don't really learn a jump-off until after I go clean. That is a superstition I have, so I was trying to figure out how the eight (strides) was going to work from the oxer to the combination and that kind of stuff. Then I looked around the schooling area and I see Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, the little kid from Chicago-Kent Farrington - Rodrigo Pessoa, I'm like, 'Oh my god this is going to get fast!'
"One was a difficult jump, the way it sat on an angle. You had to kind of be cautious to one," Minikus continued. "Then two was a hard turn. After the double then I really kind of floored it, if you will, did seven to the vertical and tight as I thought I could to the red (oxer). Then for sure that was a horse race across the ring. Then she slowed down and got real patient to the last jump, so that was a sign of her maturity again. Then the rest of it was just nail-biting in the schooling area. McLain had the time. He got a little unlucky and had two down. For sure my time was fast. You would have to go fast to catch her, but some days you're the bug and some days you're the windshield, and that's how it works."
Madden knew she had a very fast time to chase, going last with Minikus in the lead, but she was happy with Simon's efforts and a good finish.
"He is feeling great. He was actually kind of fresh again today in the schooling area. He was playing after the fence a lot, but he feels in good shape," Madden noted. "I have to say, I didn't see all of Todd's round in the jump-off, but every time I looked up at the screen he was pushing her to go faster. I knew I was probably going for second because when he is that fast it is really difficult to catch him. I kind of have to do what I feel like I can do with Simon because he can get quite strong and nervous, but I felt that he handled going pretty fast today well. Over to the last line I took a good shot and he handled it great, so I am really happy with how he went."
Watch Beezie and Simon's jump-off round here: http://bit.ly/1BP9RhR
Nusz had one of her biggest grand prix finishes in Sunday's class with her mount, Dynamo, and was thrilled to be in the presence of two of the sport's greats with her top three placing behind Minikus and Madden.
"First of all, to jump in this class with these guys and jump clean is a feat in itself, so that was exciting," Nusz stated. "Then I went early in the jump-off, so I made my plan with Kent (trainer Kent Farrington) and just stuck to my plan. I hoped to put in a tidy, clean round and make them chase me and see if they could leave the jumps off. My horse could not have been better. He really jumped great both rounds and really helped me out. He stepped up where I needed him to. He is a special horse for me. I have had him since he was seven, so we have a really great partnership. I trust him and he trusts me and when we have good days, it's the best, so I'm really happy with him."
"Kent just said stick to your plan," Nusz said of Farrington's advice. "You know your horse and you know your step. My horse is a bit of a slow moving horse. He's not as fast off the ground as say Todd's horse. He is a little bit slower in the air as well, but the way that I can be fast is to leave out strides. Kent and I said, 'Let's just do what we can do and hope for the best,' and it was a great finish. I am really happy with it. This is probably one of my best grand prix finishes, especially with the 10 that were clean. I'll take it. To be sitting here is super exciting."
Several special awards were presented to conclude CSIO week at the 2015 WEF. Nusz was named Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for week eight, an award presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler
Another special award was presented to Ireland's Kevin Babington as the top Irish rider during the CSIO Nations Cup week. Babington was presented the Niall Grimes "CHEERS" Perpetual Trophy.
Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) was presented the Kate Nash Boone Style Award as the international equestrian who exemplifies best style of riding along with maintaining a sportsmanlike composure while competing in the CSIO during Nations Cup Week.
1. BABALOU 41: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I
TODD MINIKUS (USA), Two Swans Farm: 0/0/35.77
2. SIMON: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/37.47
3. DYNAMO: 2003 BWP gelding by Skippy II x Lys de Darmen
MEAGAN NUSZ (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/0/38.71
4. CABALLITO: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Contendro x Argentinus
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/4/36.86
5. TINKABELL 12: 2005 KWPN mare by Casco x Ekstein
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Rodrigo Pessoa: 0/4/39.77
6. CALVIN KLEIN: 2004 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Cardento x Feliciano
JONATHON MILLAR (USA), Millar Brooke Farm Ltd: 0/4/42.44
7. URUS 2: 2005 Oldenburg gelding by Canturo x Cento
LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 0/4/42.99
8. HH CARLOS Z: 2002 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Voltaire
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Double H Farm: 0/8/35.42
9. ROYCE: 2004 Oldenburg stallion by Café au Lait x Grandilot
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Elm Rock LLC: 0/8/42.75
10. GAZELLE: 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare by Kashmir Van Shuttershof x Indoctro
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parksy: 0/14/59.81
11. ABUNOLA: 2005 KWPN mare by Numero Uno x Voltaire
LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Luis Pedro Biraben: 4/76.80
12. COLASKO: 2005 Oldenburg stallion by Coleman x Granus
NICOLAS PIZARRO (MEX), Monica Burillo Eguia Lis & Nicolas Pizarro: 4/77.50
Source: Press release from Jennfier Wood Media, Inc.
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