Quality Girl’s feet were lightning fast and her turns were tight as she carried Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida to a win in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, Friday at HITS Saugerties. Besting a field of 47, Minikus added another grand prix to a long list of top finishes with his own Quality Girl during the summer circuit at HITS-on-the-Hudson.
“She has been awesome this summer,” admitted Minikus. “I owe it to a team effort – from Shannon who takes care of her, to my sponsors, to the Purina feed that fuels her. She comes out every day, ready and trying to be the winner.”
Bernardo Cabral of Lisbon, Portugal set the course in the Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Stadium, which included 12 obstacles and 15 jumping efforts. Two combinations appeared late in the course; a triple combination coming off a triple bar at fence eight and an oxer-vertical double combination in the last line of the course.
Seventeen were clear over the original course, but the jump-off track put them to the test, with nine posting double-clear rounds. “The jump-off course really asked us to go fast,” said Minikus. “Despite some rain yesterday, the footing was great and all the horses seemed to jump really well.”
Sarah Segal of New York, New York set an early Great American Time to Beat in the jump-off at 41.17 seconds with Robert Segal’s Ramses. The lead changed two more times before Minikus and Quality Girl entered the ring as the eighth trip. “I saw the first horse go and then I kept hearing the times getting faster and faster, so I knew it was going to be a wide-open jump-off,” he said. “I was slow to the second-to-last fence and thought I gave it away, but I had made up enough time in the beginning to keep the lead.”
Aside from that one fence, there was nothing slow about the round. Minikus and Quality Girl crossed the beam in 38.40 seconds to establish the lead that would be contested nine more times, but ultimately stand. “If you don’t practice running at home when you’re flatting, you’ll never be able to run when you put a jump in front of you,” said Minikus of his reputation from bringing along notably fast mounts. “It all comes down to solid flat work and dressage outside the show ring.”
With less than a second between first and third, Darragh Kenny of Wellington, Florida rode Oakland Ventures, LLC’s Picolo to second just fractions behind Minikus, with a jump-off time of 38.47 seconds. Laura Chapot, on one of three mounts for the day, piloted Mary Chapot’s Zealous to third with a time of 38.65 seconds. She was also fourth with Mary Chapot’s Umberto in a time of 39.74 seconds and 12th on Quointreau Un Prince, owned by herself and McLain Ward.
Kevin Babington capped the top five aboard his own Goodwins Loyalty in a time of 40.14 seconds. Junior rider Michael Hughes of Allendale, New Jersey was sixth on Christina Fried’s MacArthur, while Segal’s original time to beat landed her in seventh. Jonathan McCrea of East Windsor, Connecticut piloted Colorado, owned by Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, to eighth. Ninth went to Michael Desiderio of Chester, New Jersey on Tranquility Farm’s Hi Eight. The top ten was rounded out by Peter Wylde of Lake Worth, Florida with Societe Civile de L’Ecurie Meautry’s Lewin 5.
Grand prix competition will return to HITS-on-the-Hudson on Sunday with the $100,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Viewers will be able to catch Sunday’s action by tuning into a live webcast on HRTV.com. The class begins at 2pm. As anticipation climbs for September’s Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Championship Weekend, riders have set their sights on the race to qualify. Once eligible, the start order for the prestigious event will be determined by a rider’s money won on their leading horse. Keep tabs on all Zoetis Million qualifying action at HITShows.com.