Lexington, KY - Tonight's amazing finish in the $55,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington, will go down in history. The crowd went wild when Todd Minikus and Pavarotti crossed the finish line in an exciting 35.24 seconds to take over the lead during the jump-off, but when Cara Rather and Ublesco managed to stop the timers at the same 35.24 seconds the night became historical.
The fantastic grand prix at the Kentucky Spring Classic was held in the Main Stadium, site of the show jumping events for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, with the course designed by Conrad Homfeld. The first round had 16 jumping efforts that included a liverpool, a double combination, and a triple combination. Ten riders were able to complete the first round without fault and advance to jump-off. The short course began over a single vertical and a made a sharp right turn to a single oxer before making a left turn to the oxer-vertical double combination. Riders then made a made dash to a single vertical, which they had to slice before continuing to a single oxer. Finally they made a full circle to a single vertical before galloping home over a large oxer towards the gate.
Pablo Barrios has been the master of speed during the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, so when he rode G & C Quick Star, owned by G & C Farm, Gustavo & Carolina Mirabal, into the ring the riders knew he would post the time to catch. He took a sharp slice to fence six and galloped over each obstacle with a hasty pace. The pair laid down a clean trip in 36.99 seconds to take an early lead, but the class was not over yet and their effort proved strong enough for fourth place.
Alexa Pessoa knew she would have to give it everything she had with Madison when they took to the short course. In an attempt to cover as much ground as possible they raced to the slice at fence six. They were lucky as Pessoa almost had a miss and a rail, but Madison was as agile as ever and left each fence in tact. The duo tripped the timers at 35.90 seconds, but even their effort was later bested and they earned the third place prize.
Todd Minikus never gives up without a fight and tonight he gave it everything he had aboard Pavarotti. They were able to jump into the lead when Pavarotti let out his stride to the final fence and stopped the clock at 35.24 seconds with all the rails in their cups. Minikus said, "I have gone fast once or twice before, and that felt fast to me."
Cara Raether knew that she would have to leave strides out with Ublesco to win tonight's class. "My horse is a little slower in the air, so the only way to catch anybody was to leave out strides," she explained. "I think I did one less than Todd to the double combination and I turned really tight to the last vertical."
The plan paid off for Raether when she crossed the finish line at 35.24 seconds with Ublesco, tying Minikus' time to last one-hundredth of a second and earning both riders the first place honors.
"It was crazy," exclaimed Raether. "You never think about it happening in a grand prix, let alone for first place. It was crazy, cool, but crazy."
Minikus commented, "Overall I think that it was a very fun class. There was a few more clean than I was expecting, but it made for a great jump-off. It started off with Norman [Dello Joio] going around nicely, and then it just kept getting faster and faster. I think people that were here watching got a treat to see it come down to a tie."
Both Minikus and Raether are part of the Long List for the United States Equestrian Team during the World Equestrian Games and will be traveling to Europe during the summer as part of the selection process. Raether plans to leave in just ten days and will be showing Ublesco at Falsterboro.
This year, Minikus and Pavarotti were able to win two of the five selection trials and also had a good showing at the 2010 FEI World Cup Finals. He feels the pair is on a good path and is well prepared for their trip to Europe.
"I think that George [Morris] has a huge responsibility coming up to pick the team from the 15 riders that are going to Europe," noted Minikus. "I strongly feel that we have two or three teams that could represent us here in Kentucky and I am sure he will pick the strongest one. If I am on the team that is great, but if I am not on it I will be helping out and pulling for USA in any way that I can."
Tonight's class was dedicated to Mary Rena Murphy, who was very dedicated to the sport and the horse shows at the Kentucky Horse Park before her untimely passing. "I have been coming here for a long, long time and I am very proud to have been a co-winner of the Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix," said Minikus. "We all need to thank Mary Rena because she really started the horse shows here at the horse park. It is because of Mary Rena that we have the beautiful facility here and the World Championships are coming here. She was a lovely lady and I think that everybody needs to recognize that it is because of Mary Rena that we all get to enjoy this facility."
Tomorrow will mark the final day of competition during the Kentucky Spring Classic at the world-class Kentucky Horse Park. Riders will have the opportunity to showcase their horses during the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic, which will get underway at 8 a.m. in the Main Stadium.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
RESULTS: Class 233, $55,000 MARY RENA MURPHY GRAND PRIX
1 943 PAVAROTTI TODD MINIKUS USA 71.74 35.24
1 518 UBLESCO CARA RAETHER USA 72.57 35.24
3 436 MADISON ALEXA PESSOA USA 69.12 35.90
4 492 G & C QUICK STARPABLO BARRIOS VEN 73.95 36.99
5 605 KELLINE FONROY CLEMENTINE GOUTAL USA 69.32 37.18
6 267 GRAF LANDO ROBERT KRAUT USA 71.51 41.17
7 340 BLUE CURACAO MARILYN LITTLE-ME USA 72.17 4 34.85
8 351 NAVAL0 DE POHETOSCHUYLER RILEY USA 72.23 4 38.83
9 611 SCARFACE NORMAN DELLO JOIO USA 73.62 4 39.64
10 360 CREME BRULE LAUREN TISBO USA 71.48 4 39.71
11 424 ROMANTOVICH TAKECHRISTINE MCCREA USA 4 69.32
12 429 PROMISED LAND JONATHAN MCCREA IRL 4 71.15
Photo Credit: Todd Minikus and Pavarotti tied with Cara Raether and Ublesco for the first place prize in the $55,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix at the Kentucky Spring Classic. Photo By: Lindsay Y McCall/PMG.