Todd Minikus & Quality Girl. Ph. Taylor Renner/Phelps Media Group
Speed was the name of the game Wednesday afternoon as the Kentucky Spring Classic kicked off with the $35,000 Welcome Speed CSI3* in the Rolex Stadium with Todd Minikus (USA) and Quality Girl, owned by the Quality Group, racing around the speed course in a time of 65.530 seconds to take the top prize.
Thirty-six horse and rider combinations vied for the winning prize money in Wednesday’s highlight event, but only 10 were able to produce a faultless effort throughout the Olaf Petersen-designed course.
Minikus just returned Stateside this week after representing the U.S. at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at CSIO5* La Baule in France on May 13, finishing in second with the help of teammates Lucy Davis, Margie Engle and Lauren Hough. Having been competing in Europe, Minikus proved Quality Girl is still in top form on Wednesday even after some time off since showing at the Longines Global Champions Tour in Miami, Florida, in April.
“She’s had quite a rest and she came out today and jumped like a fresh horse should jump,” said Minikus.
Mexico’s Eugenio Garza and El Milagro’s Bariano, winners of Sunday’s $130,000 Hollow Creek Farm Grand Prix CSI3* at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, were the first to tackle the 12-fence 1.45m speed course, and were the early pathfinders producing a clear round in 78.110 seconds.
10 rounds later, Richie Moloney (IRL) and Equinimity’s Slieveanorra took over the top spot in 69.750 seconds, until Adam Prudent (FRA) and Vasco blazed past his time in 67.470 seconds.
However, Minikus and Quality Girl entered the ring next and left no door open, catching Prudent’s time by two full seconds in 65.530 seconds.”It got faster and faster and I knew that Adam Prudent had the lead,” said Minikus. “I didn’t get a chance to see him go, but by the sound of the time, it sounded like he had a nice round. Quality Girl — she’s not gifted with the biggest stride so I opted to add in two of the lines and I think that just helped set up a little tighter turn. I think that’s probably where I might have nipped him. Everything just came up perfect so it was nice.
“She’s going to show here in Kentucky and then I go back to St. Gallen next week to show,” continued Minikus. “After that I’ll come back to compete with Quality Girl in Tryon at the 5* there.”
Five others tried to catch Minikus’ time, but only Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm’s Cyklon 1083, winners of last year’s Kentucky Spring Classic $34,000 Welcome Speed CSI3*, were able to come close. They broke the beam at 67.360 seconds, resulting in second place honors and knocking Prudent into third.
“I thought it was close enough but I got a bit wide to fence three and to the rollback on the third to last fence,” said Sweetnam. “It was maybe a little wide and that’s probably what cost me. I think the course designer did a great job. Even with a slow, clear round you got a ribbon, which is nice, and then the people who were competitive, there were some options there to make up some time. Todd is a very fast rider and Quality Girl is a very fast horse so I think it was a good class.
“I’ve had Cyklon about five years now and he’s won all over the world at this stage,” continued Sweetnam. “He’s a great horse. He was fourth in this class last week. He’s always there in these kinds of classes. He’ll do tomorrow night and we’ll see how that goes, then maybe Sunday’s grand prix also.”
Each summer, Irishman Shane Sweetnam returns to the Bluegrass State with his string of top horses. It has become custom to see his name at the pinnacle of the ranks, and Wednesday afternoon was no different.
“We always do Kentucky,” said Sweetnam. “Spy Coast Farm is right next door and that’s where we are based for the summer. It’s a great place to be. The facility here is fantastic.
“I go to Tryon for the 3* and 5* next,” continued Sweetnam. “I’ll take my group there, and then we go to Europe after that for a couple of shows.”
Minikus, who was named to the short list for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team with Jack Snyder and Two Swans Farm’s Babalou 41 in April, have already competed in the first designated CSIO/CSI Olympic observation event in La Baule, France, with a top finish.
“Babalou was great in the Nations Cup last week,” said Minikus. “We stumbled a little bit in the grand prix — I don’t think she was feeling well or something. It wasn’t her best round, but she was great in the grand prix and hopefully she’ll be back on her game for St. Gallen.
“There are a lot of things that have to happen and a lot of jumping between now and the Olympics,” continued Minikus, who is hoping to be part of the U.S. Show Jumping Team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. “All of the stars need to align just right and lightning’s got to strike twice in the same spot, and so on. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!”
“I was coming to Kentucky before it was cool to come to Kentucky,”
Having shown in Kentucky for years, Minikus believes the shows and the facility only continue to improve and get better, and enjoys returning to the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows each spring.
“I was coming to Kentucky before it was cool to come to Kentucky,” said Minikus. “We used to show up on the hill. There wasn’t even a ring, it was just gas station flags marked off and Mary Rena was running horse shows here.
“It’s a great facility and this time of year when the weather is a little questionable the footing is always still great,” continued Minikus. “It’s horse country too. I love just driving around looking at the farms and the fields as well.”
The Kentucky Spring Classic held May 18–22 features a FEI CSI3* rating. The $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic will be held on Thursday, as riders try to accumulate valuable points for the Hagyard Leading Rider Bonus. On Saturday, May 21, riders will compete under the lights in the Rolex Stadium during the $130,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix. Once again all three FEI classes will count for the Longines Ranking List and the Thursday and Saturday classes will also count for the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Ranking List. In addition, the featured national classes will be the $50,000 Bluegrass Grand Prix, which counts towards the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Ranking List, and the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, May 22, in the Rolex Stadium.
EQSportsNet will be streaming live webcasts of the $130,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3* during the Kentucky Spring Classic on Saturday, May 21. EQSportsNet Full Access subscribers can also watch all rounds of the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows series on demand at www.eqsports.net.
For more information on Kentucky Horse Shows LLC and the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows series, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Top 12: $35,000 Welcome Speed CSI3*
1 1482 QUALITY GIRL TODD MINIKUS USA 65.53
2 941 CYKLON 1083 SHANE SWEETNAM IRL 67.36
3 491 VASCO ADAM PRUDENT FRA 67.47
4 561 WINN WINN ANDREW RAMSAY USA 69.48
5 402 SLIEVEANORRA RICHIE MOLONEY IRL 69.75
6 979 CAPALL ZIDANE RONAN MCGUIGAN IRL 70.85
7 714 SENSATION 21 ALISON ROBITAILLE USA 72.40
8 67 BELMONT ALISE OKEN USA 77.16
9 603 BARIANO EUGENIO GARZA MEX 78.11
10 354 CASALL ALI WOLFF USA 81.00
11 937 CHAQUI Z SHANE SWEETNAM IRL 1 1 87.01
12 409 BUTTON SITTE RICHIE MOLONEY IRL 2 2 92.80