The evening awards ceremony of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show closed in a familiar fashion as the sun set on a victorious Darragh Kenny, of Ireland, who led the victory gallop around the Rolex Stadium aboard Babalou 41. On Saturday night, the pair claimed an exciting win in the $131,000 Hollow Creek Farm Grand Prix CSI***, just after capturing Thursday’s $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI*** at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“It was a tough course, but [Babalou 41]’s jumping amazing at the moment, and I just knew to walk my course, pick my plan and stick to it, and it really worked out well,” said Kenny. “For the jump-off [my plan] was just run. Todd [Minikus] was unbelievably fast and just amazing. It was either win or die trying.”
With a starting list of 36 horse-and-rider combinations, Alan Wade’s technical 17-effort track only produced four clear rounds for a thrilling and competitive jump-off. Todd Minikus and Quality Girl also returned to Saturday night competition in top form, delivering the long-awaited first clear round to the delight of the audience. Minikus and the 15-year-old Oldenburg mare, owned by the Quality Group, returned first in the jump-off to set the pace with a blazing time of 36.05 seconds, but were just overtaken by Kenny in the end. However, Minikus and Quality Girl still managed another top award, finishing in second place and adding to Wednesday’s $35,000 Welcome Speed 1.45-meter CSI*** victory.
“She’s been an awesome horse since the first time I ever showed her,” said Minikus. “She’s always been a winner. She had a little bit of a knee injury, so she had quite a bit of time off, but it seems like she has come back it super form, so I’m really happy to have her back. She is such fighter. She definitely has an opinion on things, but she really is a pure fighter. In the barn she’s totally casual and nothing seems to bother her, but once she’s in the ring she’s a true fighter.”
Mexico’s Eugenio Garza and El Milagro’s Armani SL Z were the ones to guarantee a jump-off in round one as they produced the second clear effort of the evening. Garza and the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding returned for a clean and careful jump-off in 40.16 seconds to earn the third-place award. The team is no stranger to the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series upon claiming last year’s $35,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI*** at the 2017 Kentucky Spring Classic.
Once again though, it was Kenny and Jack Snyder’s Babalou 41 who claimed the fastest double-clear finish of the night, flying to a time of 35.50 seconds for the victory. Kenny and the 13-year-old Oldenburg mare are already on the fast track to success with notable FEI wins in this week’s Kentucky Spring Horse Show as well as top placings at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival.
“She’s so fantastic,” Kenny said of Babalou. “She’s so careful and tries so hard. She turns unbelievable, and I think she’s going to be an incredible mare for the future. We’re really learning each other now, and it feels so good, and she’s jumping well, I’m just so happy with her.”