Quality Girl is no stranger to clean rounds with Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida and at the top of her game as of late. Highlighted by their Open Jumper success at Devon last weekend and today, winning the HITS $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare continues to shine.
"She's turning into a machine," said Minikus after they topped a field of 38 to bring home the blue. "We were under some pressure in the jump-off, but I rode exactly like I always do, and she got it done for me."
With 16 pairs advancing to the jump-off, that "pressure" begged Minikus to take a chance over the shorter course. An inside turn to the fifth fence, that no one else dared attempt, made all the difference.
Designer Martin Otto, of Muenster, Germany, set a first-round course of 12 obstacles with 15 jumping efforts and was pleased with the final result. "Some might look at the scoreboard and think the course was too lucky for these riders, only one retired and the most faults was 18. That is success to me," said Otto. "My purpose was to give these horses and riders confidence for Sunday and allow the younger, less experienced pairs to have a good day."
Minikus was pleasantly surprised by Otto's reasoning. "Many horses jumped nice rounds today and that's good for everybody," he said. "The course served its purpose and competitors well."
Kevin Babington of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania was first to jump clear from the number-one spot in the original order aboard his own Mark Q. They returned to set an immediate Great American Time to Beat at 51.99 seconds.
One ride later Minikus and Quality Girl left out strides and wowed the crowd with their breakneck turning skills, stopping the clock at 46.42 seconds. Thirteen contenders tried, but they couldn't be caught.
Jeffery Welles came close, however. The Wellington, Florida native piloted Prem Dollar Boy to cross the timers at 50.60 seconds for second. Catherine Tyree of Chicago, Illinois and Sandor de la Prince were clear with a time of 51.50 seconds to finish third for owners Joseph & Mary Tyree. Babington ended fourth while Adrienne Iverson of Califon, New Jersey capped the top five in the irons Redfield Farms' Ultimo.
Decked in sponsor swag from Éce Equestrian to Charles Owen, Minikus has big plans for this weekend. The $100,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix presented by Zoetis takes center stage as the HITS Saugerties spring series ends on a high note.
"Quality Girl and all my horses are fed Purina," said Minikus. "Hopeful that gives us a little extra luck come Sunday."
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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