November 1, 2013--Sometimes it is a rail, sometimes it is an inside turn and sometimes it is just one-tenth of a second separating the winner from the losers. That is exactly what happened during the Double H Farm $100,000 International Open Jumpers at the Alltech National Horse Show. Todd Minikus was aiming for his second win in a row with Quality Girl, completing a clear jump-off effort, when Belgium's Francois Mathy was faultless during the 14-horse jump-off aboard Polinska Des Isles, crossing the finish line a fraction of a second faster to capture the winning honors.
Forty of the world's top riders gathered at the Alltech Arena to compete during tonight's feature class. Conrad Homfeld offered challenging questions for the first round, but 14 horse and rider combinations managed to clear the course and advance to the jump-off.
"I think Conrad was probably surprised that he got a couple extra clear, but he truly is a world class course designer," noted Minikus. "I think he was trying to make it comfortable to get people's horses going well. A good course designer gets the horses going well during the week and then tests them on the weekend. I think that's quite a good job."
Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY, was the second to return for the tiebreaker with Abigail Wexner's Amadora, and she wore a target on her back when she made tidy work of the course and left each rail in place to finish in 44.22 seconds, which would hold up for third place.
After Madden produced a faultless round, Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, FL, left nothing to chance with his winner from last night's Taylor Harris $50,000 Open Jumper Welcome Speed, Quality Girl, owned by Chris Brems. The pair was quick over the top of each fence, and they shaved off valuable seconds in each turn to best the clock with a time of 41.51 seconds.
Great Britain's Tim Gredley was up next with Unex Chamberlain Z, but they would have the most conservative of the double clear efforts in 45.06 seconds for fifth place. Kirsten Coe of Royal Palm Beach, FL, was narrowly faster than Gredley aboard Baronez, owned by Ilan Ferder and Lousta Stuteri. While also leaving each fence in place, the pair broke the beam at 45.01 seconds for fourth place.
The final double clear round in the jump-off proved to be the best of the night. Traveling all the way from Belgium, Francois Mathy's focus is on Saturday night's World Cup Qualifier, but tonight he proved that he and Polinska Des Isles, owned by Team Harmony, will be ready for the challenge. They stayed right on Minikus' track and managed to finish just slightly ahead of his time, dashing across the finish line in 41.42 seconds to capture the victory by just 1/10th of a second.
"To be honest, my mare is really fast, but I really came here in order to get some World Cup points," admitted Mathy. "I went quite neat; I didn't think I could beat the time from Todd. It was quite a good surprise when I passed the timer. I didn't see his round, but I saw yesterday he won by three seconds. He was fast so I didn't really calculate on beating him and watching his round."
"It's all good sport, you know," stated Minikus. "I live by the theory if you're not the winner, you're the loser, but it's all good sport. Francois gave his horse a heck of a ride and second place is second place."
Mathy had top placings throughout Spruce Meadows with his 10-year-old mare Polinska Des Isles, including a double clear during the Nations Cup, and they also helped the Belgian team place fifth during the 2013 FEI Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona, Spain. After success in North America during the summer and fall, Mathy decided to spend the indoor season in the United States.
"In Europe, it's quite difficult to get in to the World Cups," stated Mathy. "I quite enjoyed my tour in North America, and I thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to try and get a few more points. It's my first time actually doing Indoors in North America so this is quite a nice beginning. I was quite impressed to see the facility here and all of the organization. Everybody's very welcoming, and I'm really happy I came."