For all the winning he does, Todd Minikus can never keep a new partnership quiet for long, and so it goes with the latest star addition to his grand prix string, Valinski S.
The American rider paired up with the coming 15-year-old KWPN gelding (Nijinski x Rockina) in late November 2016, and they made their competition debut together shortly thereafter, at the Holiday & Horses CSI4* in Wellington, Florida.
Very quickly, Minikus has formed a successful partnership with Valinski S, picking up two successive wins inside the first two weeks of 2017.
After a few practice classes together, Minikus and Valinski S entered their first grand prix competition, the $50,000 Purina National Grand Prix on January 8, and claimed the winner’s check with a double clear performance. That class was the final pre-season grand prix at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in the lead up to the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival, which began this week. Minikus promptly doubled down on his record and won WEF Week 1’s first grand prix qualifier of the season, the $35,0000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1.
For his part, Valinski S has a long and accomplished record, with previous riders that include Ben Maher, Candice King and Lauren Hough. But the biggest highlights of his career came under the saddle of Australia’s Matt Williams, who competed the gelding for owners Wyndmont Inc. throughout 2015 and 2016. Williams qualified for and represented the Australian Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and he and Valinski S finished inside the top 30 individuals.
But after Rio, Williams and Valinski S’ partnership came to an abrupt end. Less than a month after the Games concluded, Wyndmont owners Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman ended their partnership with Wi
lliams, and the three-time Olympic veteran said goodbye to his most recent Olympic partner. Wyndmont was rumored to be going in a new direction away from the top of the sport, but by pairing their best horse with Minikus, they are moving squarely, and speedily, back into the spotlight.
Minikus has always had his eye on the horse, and was happy to get the call to ask if he’d take on the ride.
“When they first got him years ago, Michael rode him,” Minikus said. “I always really liked him and I even asked about him, a couple years ago. It’s funny how things come around – when they called and asked if I’d ride him. He jumped great for Matt at the Olympics, and it’s no fluke—he’s a top horse.”
The Wyndmont team manages Valinski S’ entire program, from feeding to fitness to daily maintenance. Minikus meets his mount at the ring and simply goes from there.
“Wyndmont has a great team getting those horses ready for me,” Minikus said. He also has the ride on the Wyndmont-owned Zephyr. “I just ride them here in the ring. The boys and the team who take care of them, and Michael who does the riding at home, they’re doing a good job making it easy for me, I can’t take all the credit!”
On Thursday before he proceeded to win the WEF Challenge Cup, Minikus opened Valinski S up in the schooling ring, smoothly asking for a gallop and jumping one last oxer at full speed.
“If you’re racing, you might as well practice running,” Minikus quipped. “They don’t trot racehorses very much, they pick up the canter and then they run. So if you’re going to go in there and race you might as well run. I just basically put my foot to the floor and hang on.”
With Valinski S in top form and a big winter season ahead, Minikus will do well to keep hanging on, and jumping clear.