Wellington, FL - March 17, 2011 - After missing the beginning of the 2011 show circuit due to a shattered collarbone, Todd Minikus (USA) made his return to the winner's circle at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) today riding Pavarotti to a victory in the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 10. This was the pair's second time back in the ring this season and they made it look easy with two fast and faultless rounds.
The FTI WEF's tenth week of competition, sponsored by Artisan Farms, continues through Sunday, March 20. Friday will feature the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m at 1 p.m. and the George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships Presented by Artisan Farms at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic will run at 1 p.m. followed by the $50,000 Vita Flex Match Races at 7 p.m. Sunday will conclude week ten at The Stadium with the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix at 10 a.m. and the $78,000 Pennfield Feeds FEI CSI 2* Grand Prix at 2 p.m., each held on the grass field at The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC, is the course designer in the International Arena this week and set a tricky track for the class of 53 entries in today's WEF Challenge Cup. Seven entries were able to clear the first round course to advance to the jump-off and just three of those seven cleared the jump-off course without fault.
Canada's Ian Millar and Star Power, owned by Team Works, were the first pair to jump double clear and stopped the clock in 46.80 seconds to finish in second place. Samuel Parot (CHL) and Al Calypso followed with a time of 47.35 seconds to finish in third place. Minikus and Pavarotti were the final pair to jump double clear and bested Millar's leading time by over four seconds in 42.48 seconds to take first place.
Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley had four faults in the jump-off to place fourth. Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner's Mademoiselle had eight faults in 44.87 seconds to finish fifth and Scott Brash (GBR) and Liz McTaggart's Bon Ami had eight faults in 45.19 seconds to earn sixth place. Ashlee Bond (USA) and Little Valley Farm's Apache had 12 faults in the jump-off to finish in seventh.
Minikus had his destroyed collarbone repaired in surgery with a plate and ten screws just six weeks ago today, and was eager to get back in the ring and off the sidelines. He explained, "I still love getting up every day and riding and competing, so it wasn't just the showing or the circuit that I was missing as much as just getting up every day and not being able to go ride. That is still why I get up every day; whether it is showing in a grand prix or riding young horses, it still trips my trigger," he said with a laugh.
Despite being unable to ride for many weeks, Minikus was busy at the beginning of circuit with a brand new baby, his second with wife Amanda, born six weeks ago. While he was healing and spending time with his newest child, his best mount Pavarotti stayed in top form and was ready to come out and win.
Pavarotti is a 14-year-old KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding by Lancelot x Renville. Pavarotti and Minikus showed in last Saturday's $231,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI4*-W as their first class back for the season, and plan to compete again this Sunday in the $78,000 Pennfield Feeds FEI CSI 2* Grand Prix. The goal is to qualify for the circuit's grand finale, the $500,000 FTI Consulting Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, March 26.
Minikus noted, "He jumped fabulous on Saturday, he had just the slightest rub at 'b' of the triple combination and had four faults, and then today is his second class, so he was great. Right now he does not need much practice, he knows what the deal is."
Speaking about the class, Minikus stated, "The course was nice. Seven clear out of 53 starters is probably just about right. It was tricky; it was a rideability contest really. The water to the vertical, vertical was really tricky. There were no green horses that survived that; it was the veterans really, the horses that know what they are doing."
"The triple was a little scopey, but it looks like the course designer got the right rider and horse to win," Minikus concluded with a smile.
In each WEF Challenge Cup class this year the riders have had the opportunity to win a $3,000 bonus for wearing a pair of SSG 'Digital' riding gloves during their winning round. Although Minikus did not know about the bonus since he has not been showing, he found out right before the class and made sure to get a pair. Since last week's Challenge Cup was cancelled due to bad weather, the bonus money rolled over to this week, and Minikus earned an additional $6,000 on top of his class prize money.
Week ten of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m at 1 p.m. and the George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships Presented by Artisan Farms at 5 p.m. in the International Arena.
Final Results: $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 10
1 PAVAROTTI: 1997 KWPN gelding by Lancelot x Renville TODD MINIKUS (USA), Todd Minikus Ltd: 0/0/42.48
2 STAR POWER: 2001 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Quick Star IAN MILLAR (CAN), Team Works: 0/0/46.80
3 AL CALYPSO: 2002 Hanoverian gelding by Askari x Calypso II SAMUEL PAROT (CHL), Samuel Parot: 0/0/47.35
4 HH ASHLEY: 2000 Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Chasseur RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Double H Farm: 0/4/47.70
5 MADEMOISELLE: 1997 Holsteiner Mare by Libertino I x Silvester BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/8/44.87
6 BON AMI: 2001 BWP gelding by Pavarotti VD Helle x Unknown SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Liz Mctaggart: 0/8/45.19
7 APACHE: 1999 Selle Francais/Thoroughbred gelding by Mescalaro x Unknown ASHLEE BOND (USA) Little Valley Farm: 0/12/43.59
8 LOUIS K2: 1999 Oldenburg gelding by Lanciano x Fugato GEORGINA BLOOMBERG (USA), Dietmar Gugler: 1/77.02
9 SECRET: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Burggraaf ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Andres Rodriguez: 1/77.58
10 MELISIMO: 1999 KWPN mare by Achill-Libero H x Jasper MICHELLE SPADONE (USA), Morgan Hill Partners: 1/79.23
11 ROTHCHILD: 2001 SBS gelding by Artos x Elegant De L'Ile MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 4/71.55
12 INTERTOY Z: 1999 Zangersheide gelding by Interadel x Centauer SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Stan Brash: 4/72.29
Photo Credit: Todd Minikus and Pavarotti won the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup during week ten at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Todd Minikus and Pavarotti with ringmaster Cliff Haines, Jennifer Ward of Starting Gate Communications, and Ed James of SSG Gloves. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.