Todd Minikus knows when the likes of McLain Ward, Ronan McGuigan and Laura Chapot follow him in a jump-off, winning will be no easy feat. He proved twice-over, however, that while a fight against some of the greats is a challenge, he is up to the task. Minikus bested a star-studded order on Sunday to collect first with Arino Du Rouet, as well as second and sixth in the $50,000 Horze Equestrian Grand Prix presented by Zoetis at HITS Saugerties. With 13 jumping efforts, Florencio Hernandez's (Mexico City, Mexico) built a course that served dual purposes – welcoming a field of both green and experienced horses. "For that mix, it was the perfect course," said Minikus.
The first round of 18 starters yielded seven clears to return for the jump-off. Riding first in the class, Minikus and Two Swans Farm's Babalou 41 made clear that while the course was technical, it was not too much for the inexperienced horses. Two trips later, Ward and HH Ashley, Friday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix winners owned by Double H Farm, secured a jump-off. Minikus would eventually qualify two more for the jump-off, joined again by Ward of Brewster, New York, McGuigan of Far Hills, New Jersey and Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey.
Returning first to the second round over nine obstacles Minikus, from Loxahatchee, Florida and Babalou 41. Despite having a young partnership of two months, they were aggressive and in sync, posting a blistering time of 40.14 seconds. "I knew they would have to work hard to catch us after that round," said Minikus of his challengers. "You can't find stiffer jump-off competition than that group."
Even with notable contenders, the real jump-off battle was between Minikus and Ward. Their intense game of cat and mouse monopolized the jump-up action with Ward returning second on HH Ashley and breaking the tape just off the lead. The mare was precise and flawless, posting a clear time of 41.23 seconds.
Minikus' Great American Time to Beat on Babalou went untouched until he returned fourth in the order with Arino Du Rouet for Two Swans Farm. They stopped the clock in 39.60 seconds – the time that eventually earned the blue ribbon. "I got lucky at the second jump and caught a forward, long distance, which worked well for us in the end," he said.
With one ride to remain, Ward and HH Fleur made a huge bid for the win with tights knees and efficient turns, but couldn't catch Minikus on the clock. When he pulled up, it read 41.11 seconds for third, bumping his other ride HH Ashley to fourth. McGuigan claimed fifth aboard Capall Zidane with the fastest of the four-fault jump-off rounds in 39.91 seconds – a time that would have earned him a spot in the top three . Minikus and his own Macoemba took sixth with four faults and Chapot settled for seventh aboard Quointreau Un Prince after two rails came out of the cups.
Minikus and Arino Du Rouet, a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding, quickly climbed the ranks at HITS-on-the-Hudson, winning the $75,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix presented by Zoetis during the spring series. "Arino turned a corner when we arrived in Saugerties," said Minikus. "This circuit is perfect for horses making a name for themselves jumping for impressive prize money. Plus, the footing is excellent at HITS—as good as anywhere I've competed in the world."
Lofty plans are in the works for both Arino Du Rouet and Babalou 41, including bids to World Cup Finals, Pan American Games and eventually the Olympics, but on Sunday a one-two finish was enough. While not lacking confidence in his younger mounts, Minikus hinted that Quality Girl is still his number-one choice for the September's Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix. "She's a proven winner – we are going to carefully bring the new ones [Arino Du Rouet and Babalou 41] along, keep feeding them Purina and they will get there. Both horses have big futures ahead of them," he concluded.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team
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