CULPEPER, VA (August 26, 2001)-Todd Minikus, 39, of Loxahatchee, Florida, riding Oh Star won the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at the Constitution Classic Horse Show in Culpeper, Virginia, today. Sydney Olympic Team Alternate Minikus and his Olympic mount Oh Star were the fastest of six double-clears in a field of 22 entries. As owner/rider, Minikus took home $15,000 in prize money. Doug Russell of Wellington, Florida, designed the course.
"It really came down to speed in the Jump-Off," said Minikus, who beat his closest competitor, Kim Frey of Hume, Maryland, on Bergerac, by a second and fractions. Minikus and Oh Star also won the $50,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix at HITS Culpeper on July 8, adding to his string of eight major Grand Prix wins in the past nine weeks. "I'm extremely fortunate to be riding two horses as talented as Oh Star and What Nu," he said. "They're both very competent horses. For whatever reason, the stars must be lined up right. You can't win like this without a little luck. And luck has really been on my side."
For Round One, Course Designer Russell built a 14-jump course that included a double at Fence No. 7 and a triple combination at Fence No. 11. Time Allowed was set at 93 seconds. One rider voluntarily withdrew on course. Ten horses had clear rounds and qualified for the Jump-Off. Minikus rode four horses in Round One, including What Nu and Playboy who each had a rail, but he went clean with Oh Star and Gardenio, qualifying both for the Jump-Off. "We set Round One as a pretty straightforward course," said Russell. "We had a very good field. There were a lot of very good horses all in one place. No one had more than eight faults on the course, which means that everyone jumped very well. Before the class, I predicted we'd have eight clean, so 10 was not far off."
Russell's seven-obstacle Jump-Off required riders to start with a 4' 8" vertical at Fence No. 13, then make a sweeping right turn to the 4' 9" high by 5' wide yellow oxer at No. 5, turn left for a short gallop to the 4' 9" Antarés liverpool at No. 6, ride straight to the 4' 9" high by 5' wide oxer at No. 7A, turn left to the 11AB combination of the triple which was a 4' 9" vertical and a 4' 9" high by 5' wide oxer, then turn right and finish with a long gallop home to the 5' tall by 5' wide triple bar at No. 14. Time Allowed was set at 47 seconds.
Starting off the Jump-Off order was Minikus on Gardenio owned by YZ Partners, who lowered Fence No. 11B for four faults in 36.879, finishing in eighth place. Next to go was Mary Nicholson-Leffler of Brookville, Maryland, on Kick the Clouds, a horse she owns with Rolling Acres Farm, who had No. 5 down in 37.908 for ninth place. Going third on the short course was amateur-owner/rider Rory Hovell of Sperryville, Virginia, on Atlantic who posted the first clear round in 40.710 and took the lead, but he ended up in fifth place. Next to go was Colin Syquia, of Forest Hills, New York, on Alex Carl's stallion, White Russian, who also had No. 11B down for four faults in 38.602, taking tenth place.
Minikus returned to the ring with his second ride, Oh Star, and bumped Hovell out of the lead by more than six seconds with his clear round in 34.464, which proved to be unbeatable. Frey on Bergerac was next in the order and challenged the leader with her clear in 35.817, but had to settle for second place and $11,000 for owner Katherine Miracle and Overlook Farm. Next to try for the lead was Robin Sweely of Madison, Virginia, on Acorn Hill Farm's Calvin N Hobbs, but they had No. 7A down in 36.614 and finished in seventh place. Nicholson-Leffler returned to the ring for her second try, riding Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Chovnick's Graf Rossini S, and this time she cleared the course, but her time of 37.754 was only good enough for fourth place. Last to challenge Minikus was Lynne Little of Frederick, Maryland, on Comtessa X, a mare she owns with M. Sayanne, who posted the sixth double-clear of the day, but her time of 36.568 placed her third for $6,500.
"Todd is one of the fastest riders in North America," said Russell. "Oh Star jumps well and doesn't stay too lofty in the air. He lands and covers ground. He's looking for the next fence. Some of the newer horses jump high in the air and have to re-focus and gallop. They don't have the mind yet to travel. When a horse doesn't understand speed, you have to guide them every step of the way. Oh Star has a little bit more savvy. The other horses are great jumpers, but less seasoned. Oh Star is the best horse in North America."
The Constitution Classic is the fifth of six shows in the HITS Culpeper series held from May to September at Commonwealth Park. The next horse show in this series is the Cosequin® USGPL Finals from September 26-30. HITS Commonwealth Park is located on Rte. 522, 3.5 miles south of the junction with Rte. 3 in Culpeper, Virginia. During HITS Culpeper horse shows, telephone 540-825-7469 for more information.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Hilton, HITS Media & Public Relations Director, 319 Main Street, Saugerties, NY 12477, Phone: 845-246-8833, Fax: 845-246-6371. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
$50,000 HITS Grand Prix, August 26, 2001 HITS Culpeper V, Culpeper, Virginia
Course Designer: Doug Russell
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults & Time
1/Oh Star/Todd Minikus/Todd Minikus Ltd/$15,000/0/0-34.464
2/Bergerac/Kimberly Frey/Katherine Miracle&Overlook Farm/$11,000/0/0-35.817
3/Comtessa X/Lynne Little/Raylyn Farm&M Sayanne/$6,500/0/0-36.568
4/Graf Rossini S/Mary Nicholson-Leffler/M&M Bruce Chovnick/$4,000/0/0-37.754
5/Atlantic/Rory Hovell/Rory Hovell/$3,000/0/0-40.710
6/Daylight/Allison Firestone/M&M Bertram Firestone/$2,500/0/0-41.311
7/Calvin N Hobbs/Robin Sweely/Acorn Hill Farm Inc/$2,000/0/4-36.614
8/Gardenio/Todd Minikus/YZ Partners/$1,500/0/4-36.879
9/Kick the Clouds/Mary Nicholson-Leffler/Mary Lisa Nicholson-Leffler & Rolling/$1,500/0/4-37.908
10/White Russian/Colin Syquia/Alex Carl/$1,000/0/4-38.602
11/Snepts/Courtney Phibbs/Court-Lin-Frae Farm/$1,000/4/NA
12/El Costo Du Baney/Manuel Torres/Alejandro Landes/$1,000/4/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 22
Class Prize Money: $50,000