November 2, 2011-- It was a thrilling night of competition in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park as the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, made its debut at its new home. The top horses and riders from around the world showed up tonight to compete during the Sasco Creek Farm International Open Jumpers $50,000 Welcome Stake, benefiting the Alltech Sustainable Haiti Project. Riders raced over the technical track set by Richard Jeffery, and with a blazing pace of 57.93 seconds the winning honors went to Todd Minikus riding Sweetheart, owned by Candy Tribble and the Windsor Show Stables of East Windsor, CT. McLain Ward and Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve, owned by Louisburg Farm of Boston, MA, followed in second with a clear time of 58.02, while Laura Kraut and Teirra, owned by Stars and Stripes of Middleburg, VA picked up the third place honors with a time of 60.56 seconds.
Jeffery built an excellent course for tonight's event, big but inviting. It included multiple inside options, as well as striding options and a technical oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination. Fourteen horse and rider combinations managed to complete clear efforts.
"Walking the course I actually thought it looked kind of big for a first class for the horses," admitted eventual winner Todd Minikus. "It played out after watching it; the horses in general jumped around the course pretty well. It was a 1.50m speed class in the prize list, and it was worth $50,000 so we should have to jump a little for it. Richard Jeffrey is obviously very, very good at his craft so he knew what he was doing."
Tonight's riders set the time to beat from the start, with each entry trying to catch the top honors. As only the second horse and rider combination of 44 to compete, Great Britain's Nick Skelton and Unique, owned by Beverly Widdowson, set a masterful example with quick, neat turns. With each rail in place they tripped the timers at 60.65 seconds, but it would only be good enough for fourth. Kraut stepped in to better the time with Teirra, and with an excellent effort over each obstacle they broke the beam in 60.56 seconds, sneaking into the third place honors. The duo's time was quickly bested by 2011 Pan American Team Gold Medalist McLain Ward riding Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve. They picked up a quick pace from the start and managed to leave a stride out in the first line, allowing for a clear round in 58.02 seconds, eventually earning the red ribbon.
Todd Minikus was 13th in the order with Sweetheart, and they also managed to do five strides in the first line, and add an incredible sliced turn to the seventh obstacle. Without touching a rail they blazed across the finish line in 57.93 seconds, setting a pace that the 33 remaining horses would not be able to best, and leading tonight's victory gallop.
"I have seen McLain ride that horse plenty, and it's an extremely careful horse and blazing fast generally, so I had somewhat of a visualization of what it was like and I guess I just took a good crack at it," explained Minikus. "I caught the first jump pretty well and made the first five actually so that I could slow down at the end of it. That rhythm carried on through the rest of the course."
Ward commented, "Pjotter is a very careful and fast horse. My plan was to set a fast pace. Obviously being the first class in, and I haven't shown him since September here, I wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything foolish as well. I was a little bit lucky to get the five up the first line actually. This horse has been at home while I have been at the Pan Am Games, and my dad has been schooling him. He did a great job; the horse came out ready to go tonight. Todd is one of the fastest riders in the world and tonight he slicked me."
Many other horse and rider combinations tried to catch Minikus' speedy pace, including Alexa Pessoa of Southport, CT, and Madison, who completed a clear effort in 62.59 seconds, which eventually earned the fifth place award. Kate Levy of Wellington, FL, and Vent Du Nord rounded out the top six as the first pair on course, who managed to produce a fault-free round in 62.72 seconds.
Sweetheart and Minikus were paired up by the McCrea and Tribble family this past winter, but only began showing this summer and are already proving to be quite a combination. They already kicked-off the indoor circuit with a win in the $20,000 Gambler's Choice at the Washington International Horse Show. "He won a couple of nice grand prix classes this summer and his indoors so far have been competitive, so things are looking like he's going to be doing pretty well."
This is the first time that the jumper riders have competed in the Alltech Arena as the Alltech National Horse Show makes it new home in the Kentucky Horse Park, and they are all thrilled to be showing at the beautiful venue. "I think this a natural place for our National Horse Show to be with our USEF headquarters here, it is such a lovely facility," said Minikus. "I was lucky enough to be coming to the Horse Park way back in the 80s and it's quite lovely to see how the Horse Park has progressed, and certainly this is something that adds to the beauty and the overall theme of the Horse Park and probably a fantastic future for the Alltech National Horse Show here."
The fierce international jumper competition will continue tomorrow during the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition. Riders will have the opportunity to showcase their skills during the Sleepy P Ranch $10,000 Junior Jumpers, Chansonette Farm $10,000 Amateur-Owner Jumpers and the Double H Farm $75,000 International Open Jumpers. For more information about the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, please visit www.nhs.org.
Sasco Creek Farm $50,000 Welcome Stake
1 85 SWEETHEART TODD MINIKUS 0 0 0 57.930
2 54 PJOTTER VAN DE ZONNEHOEVE MCLAIN WARD 0 0 0 58.020
3 16 TEIRRA LAURA KRAUT 0 0 0 60.560
4 77 UNIQUE NICK SKELTON 0 0 0 60.650
5 4 MADISON ALEXA PESSOA 0 0 0 62.590
6 89 VENT DU NORD KATE LEVY 0 0 0 62.720
7 39 AVENIR CHRISTINE MCCREA 0 0 0 63.720
8 5 MIKA REED KESSLER 0 0 0 65.650
9 11 RALVESTHER BRIANNE GOUTAL 0 0 0 67.330
10 78 CARLO 273 NICK SKELTON 0 0 0 68.350
11 28 DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE SHANE SWEETNAM 0 0 0 70.470
12 37 VICTORY DA SAER COULTER 0 0 0 72.320