Ireland's Ronan McGuigan and Capall Zidane were double clear and blazing fast for the win in Saturday night's $50,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSI 2*, the highlight event of week two at the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). Riders representing nine different countries showed under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) with top finishes for McGuigan, along with Todd Minikus (USA) and Quality Girl and Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) aboard Carlos V.H.P. Z.
Luc Musette of Belgium set the course for Saturday night's competition with 44 entries, nine clear rounds to advance to the jump-off, and seven clear rounds over the short course. The fantastic crowd that braved the unusually cold Florida weather was treated to a thrilling show in the jump-off as the horses and riders raced against the clock.
Fifth to go in the second round, Ronan McGuigan and Capall Zidane completed the fastest track in 39.92 seconds, edging out Todd Minikus and Quality Girl's time of 40.15 seconds. A few rounds later, Nicholas Dello Joio and Carlos V.H.P. Z completed the third fastest time in 40.33 seconds. It was a very close race, as Sweden's Alexander Zetterman and Cafino finished fourth in 40.50 seconds, and Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Rocky W stopped the clock in 40.52 seconds to place fifth.
Ronan McGuigan already has an early lead in the $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge standings after a very successful start to the circuit, and he added a few more points to that lead with Saturday night's win. Capall Zidane, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Concorde x Baloubet du Rouet, has been incredibly consistent for the rider and continues to prove himself.
"I came down here for the holiday horse show, and he was second in the two 1.45m classes, and then he had a rail in the World Cup and came thirteenth," McGuigan explained. "Last week was his first week back and he was third in the WEF and fourth in the grand prix, and this week he was third in the WEF again and topped it off tonight, so he can have a rest now."
Commenting on his jump-off round, McGuigan noted, "I was usually fighting most of the year here with Todd, so I knew I had to try and beat him. The turn back to the third jump I had to give him a little bit of time, it was tricky, but after that everything else you could gallop up to the jumps. He's very careful, so the jump-off course kind of suited me."
McGuigan, originally from Ireland, came to America 12 years ago and now has a farm in New Jersey. He is enjoying the opportunity to jump at a higher level and acknowledged that Saturday's win was the biggest of his career.
"This is the first time I've really had a chance to jump at this level," McGuigan detailed. "Mostly I have been training clients, so I'm just having fun with him. I've got a few new, young horses coming up behind him, so hopefully next year they can help me out a little and take the pressure off him."
"I've had him since he was a five-year-old," he added. "I bought him at the Hendrix auction, and I actually never went to try him. I just bought him off a DVD. When I bought him, all of my Irish pals called him the 'internet horse,' but I had the last laugh tonight. He has been very consistent since I've had him."
Of course Todd Minikus would have liked to win on Saturday night, but he was very happy with his rounds on Quality Girl and also celebrated McGuigan's top finish. "I'd like to congratulate Ronan; he has really done a great job with that horse," Minikus stated. "I have watched that horse, his career since Ronan started with him, and Ronan has done a hell of a job with him."
"Going early in the jump-off, I was mostly worried about Ronan because last year, during the summer, Ronan really started clicking with that horse and it is lightning fast," Minikus acknowledged. "Going in early you gotta be a little conservative and I kind of got stuck in the corner rolling back to the black vertical. I did one or two extra strides there that I didn't need to, but going early, that's what you have to do sometimes. Luck of the Irish was clearly there tonight."
Minikus explained that this was Quality Girl's first week back to showing after a well deserved two months off. The mare won nine grand prix classes in the 2013 season and is back for more. "She's right back on track where she left off," he affirmed. "I was a little bit concerned about how she would come back after that long break because she has proven that she does well when she's in a continuation of showing, but it was all good. I'm pretty excited for the circuit."
Nicholas Dello Joio was showing Carlos V.H.P. Z for his previous owner, Emilie Martinsen, during last year's FTI WEF circuit and is excited to now have control of the talented gelding's career through his new Carlos Group ownership.
"We're really excited to do what we want with the horse, pick and choose what's best for our schedule and what we want to aim at," Dello Joio stated. "We know the kind of quality he has. He has already previously won a 5* grand prix back in Europe, so he has quite a record. He's an unbelievably careful horse and when he's confident, I think there's nothing he won't jump. Tonight he was super, so I'm really excited."
Matt Varney of Wellington Equestrian Realty had a great time watching Saturday night's class and congratulated the top competitors. "It's a great class," Varney stated. "This is the third time we've done this class and the third year it hasn't felt like Florida, so I'm just happy it turned out and we still had a great crowd out there and a full international tent. I really enjoy that. I am happy with the turnout every year at this time of year, and we are looking forward to our other class in a number of weeks."
Final Results: $50,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSI 2*
1. CAPALL ZIDANE: 2004 KWPN gelding by Concorde x Baloubet du Rouet
RONAN MCGUIGAN (IRL), Ronan McGuigan: 0/0/39.92
2. QUALITY GIRL: 2003 Oldenburg mare by Quidam's Rubin x Dobrock
TODD MINIKUS (USA), Quality Group: 0/0/40.15
3. CARLOS V.H.P Z: 2002 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Voltaire
NICHOLAS DELLO JOIO (USA), The Carlos Group: 0/0/40.33
4. CAFINO: 2003 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Cardento 933 x Roderik 856
ALEXANDER ZETTERMAN (SWE), Alexander Zetterman: 0/0/40.50
5. ROCKY W: 1998 KWPN gelding by Libero H x Corofino
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), Kaitlin Campbell: 0/0/40.52
6. TALOUBET: 2000 KWPN gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet x Quidam De Revel
PAULO SANTANA (BRA), Paulo Santana: 0/0/41.76
7. PIRONELLA: 2005 Canadian Warmblood mare by Non Stop x Pilot
KEEAN WHITE (CAN), Angelstone Partners: 0/4/42.12
8. FEROX B: 2005 BWP gelding by Quidam de Revel CSF x Contender
LORENZO DE LUCA (ITA), Mike Collins: 0/4/42.24
9.URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor
BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane F. Clark: 0/8/47.82
10. CASSINJA: 2005 Holsteiner mare by Cassini I x Caletto I
ALISON ROBITAILLE (USA), M/M Bertram Firestone: 1/72.45
11T. ZERNIKE K: 2004 KWPN gelding by Sam R 60 x H Topas
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 1/72.46
11T. HERACROSS: 2000 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Ramiro B x Clover Hill
PARIS SELLON (USA) Paris Sellon: 1/72.46
Source: Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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