The $100,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final concluded on Sunday with a win for Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41, a nine-year-old Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I.
The competition saw 84 entries in the first round on Saturday and the top 25% returned to compete in round two on Sunday, where their cumulative scores from both rounds were combined to determine the winner. Three riders chose not to return for the second round, leaving 18 entries to show on Sunday.
Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41, Andres Rodriguez (VEN) and Caballito, and Daniel Deusser (GER) and Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof were the only three to complete double clear rounds, and their times in round two served as the tiebreaker.
Minikus and Bob Haefner's Babalou 41 jumped double clear through both rounds and completed the fastest time of the competition in 48.78 seconds to earn top honors. Rodriguez and Arao Enterprises Caballito cleared the second round course in 49.97 seconds to finish second. Deusser and Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof, owned by Stephex Stables and Double H Farm, finished third in 50.59 seconds.
Although the schedule was changed due to weather, Todd Minikus did not mind the overnight break between rounds for his young horse and was happy with her performance in the final round on Sunday.
"Unfortunately the rain put a damper on things last night, but I was a little concerned even with the gap that we would have had yesterday," Minikus noted. "That mare is very green and she has never done something like that where she went once and then had to come back hours later, so maybe the entire night's rest worked out for me. She went like a professional show horse today, so it was all good."
"She is a mare that I have been showing for three years now," Minikus explained. "We did schooling jumpers basically for two years. She was always an exceptional mare. Everybody that saw her for the first time always came up and asked about her. She was always extremely extravagant with her jump. We often wondered if that was going to hold her back, where she was maybe too exuberant with her jump, but she kind of leveled out here this past year and she has done some good things. Stewart Moran is her trainer; basically I just catch ride her. She lives with Stewart and his team, and I just ride her at the ring. They have done a great job with her. Santa, who flats her, has done a fantastic job. I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Haefner for the opportunity to ride her. It has been a good team so far."
Speaking about his blazing fast jump-off round, Minikus detailed, "I know that mare can go fast, and I was one of the first clears to come back. We kind of saved her for this class. She did one WEF (Challenge Cup) and we have kind of nursed her along, so they gave me the green light to press on the gas pedal. She is extremely careful, so if you can get her into the middle of the jump, chances are she is going to leave it up."
Minikus hopes to continue showing the talented mare and looks forward to seeing her future success. "Hopefully I can take her a little bit more with me this summer," he noted. "She is ready to go now. We have babied her along enough. She is ready to be a show horse now, so hopefully they will let me take her with me and do a little bit more."
As the conclusion to the twelve-week Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, Sunday's class served as the final allocation of points for the overall standings for the $25,000 Leading Horse and Rider Award. The bonus money was presented to Great Britain's Tim Gredley and Unex Omega Star as the horse and rider combination who gained the most points throughout all twelve classes of the circuit. Unex Omega Star is a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Quick Star x Quatoubet du Rouet, owned by Unex Competition Yard Ltd.
Speaking about the bonus, Gredley stated, "It is really nice, because although I haven't won one of the 1.50m classes, he has been consistently in the top three or five all the way through. It is nice for the horse to be rewarded for doing that. Over the last couple of weeks I noticed that I was up there in the standings for the bonus and Nick Skelton, my trainer, basically said that we should aim to just try to get a result in that. We jumped a double clear last week and got sixth. Then getting a time fault yesterday actually, in a funny way, kind of helped me today because I knew I couldn't really win the class. These guys were all clear, so the plan was just to jump another clear and try to get a few more points, and luckily it went to plan."
Gredley has had Unex Omega Star for a year now and explained that he has made a lot of progress with the horse since he started training with Skelton this winter.
"I struggled with him a little bit because he is by Quick Star and he is a bit sharp in his head, but the last three or four months especially, we have changed a lot with him in the way that I ride him," Gredley said. "The whole program that we have with him at home now is very different and it seems to be working. I changed a lot with all of the horses in the last few months with the feed and the stuff that we do at home. We tend not to ride him as much at home now. Just little things that I really didn't think would make much of a difference have made a big difference for him. I have been training with Nick now for the last four months, and he has made a big difference for all of them, but especially that horse."
Gredley first came to Wellington in 2006 when he was 20 years old and then took a couple of years off from riding to learn the family real estate business. He now splits his time between riding and real estate and travels between Wellington and his home in England.
"The weather is always a good start, especially when you speak to everyone at home," he said of the perks of competing in Florida. "It is really nice, especially because I have a really great team of people at home, and it is nice for them not to have to change shows every single week. The horses can basically jump from home. I especially find when we go home that it is hard for them to have to keep changing and going on the road every single week, so that is probably one of the biggest plusses to be here."
Sunday's competition concluded a fantastic 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Equestrian Sport Productions would like to thank everyone for a wonderful circuit and looks forward to 2015. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $100,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic Final
1. BABALOU 41: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I
TODD MINIKUS (USA), Bob Haefner: 0/48.78
2. CABALLITO: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Contendro x Argentinus
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/49.97
3. FYLOE VH CLAEYSSENHOF: 2005 BWP gelding by Burggraaf x Hearbreaker
DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables: 0/50.59
4. VICTORY DA: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Attach Z
AUDREY COULTER (USA), Copernicus Stables, LLC: 1/55.37
5. UNEX OMEGA STAR: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Quick Star x Quatoubet du Rouet
TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 1/59.18
6. JUVINA: 2001 Austrian Warmblood mare by Cassini I x Grannus
GEORGINA BLOOMBERG (USA), Gotham Enterprizes, LLC: 1/59.68
7. BERNADIEN VAN WESTUUR: 2001 BWP mare by Toulon x Wibramino
BENJAMIN MEREDITH (AUS), River Farm Sporthorses: 1/62.88
8. FIRST CLASS VAN EECKELGHEM: 2005 BWP gelding by Balou du Rouet x Feinschnidtt I VD Richter
DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables: 4/51.06
9. LISONA: 2001 Irish Sporthorse mare OBOS Quality 004 x Porsch
JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 4/55.99
10. ZOVIDIUS R: 2004 KWPN gelding by Oviidius x Nabour
VICTORIA GUILLKSEN (NOR), Stall Guillik: 5/61.94
11. STAR POWER: 2001 KWPN gelding by Quick Star
IAN MILLAR (CAN), Team Works: 6/57.13
12. MELODY DES HAYETTES Z: 2004 Zangersheide mare by Mozart des Hayettes X Ryon d'Anzex X
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 8/50.94
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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