Saugerties, N.Y.—Sept. 7
Todd Minikus wasn’t quite sure how to handle the jump-off for the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix. He’s used to going all out in jump-offs, and there are few riders faster than him. On top of that, Quality Girl is a speedster herself, with a lot of zing to her step.
But all Minikus had to do was jump clear. The only other jump-off contender, Quentin Judge, had gone first and had a rail.
“It almost would have been better if he’d been clear so I would have known I just had to go,” Minikus said wryly. “When she jumped through the combination so well, I could feel she was trying hard so I kind of changed my plan a bit and went extra-wide to the plank vertical. She felt like she was going to jump home clear, so I trusted her and there you go.”
Quality Girl repaid that trust with the only clear round of the jump-off, bringing home a check for $350,000 for Minikus more than 2 seconds slower that Judge’s round. “She’s a fighter. Everybody always says that if you get a good mare who fights for you, it’s hard to beat them and I think there is some truth to that,” Minikus said.
Judge ended up in second with HH Donatello, with Canadian rider Elizabeth Gringas in third aboard her Zilversprings.
Judge wasn’t terribly upset with second place. “I’d love to have my name on the check instead of Todd’s, but I had a great time. It’s my first time doing a million class and it was a great experience,” he said. Judge rides for Double H Farm, and has held the reins for Donatella for a year and a half.
“To be honest, I had a really hard time with her for about a year and three months, but things started to turn around and we’re really hitting our stride,” Judge said. “She’s a great horse. She’s similar to Todd’s horse—she’s got a lot of blood and she tried really hard. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Judge had proved early on in the order of the first round that going clean was possible, but there were a lot of rails on the ground between his first-round trip and Minikus’s. “I was thinking there weren’t going to be that many clear, and there shouldn’t be for this class, it’s a special event,” Minikus said. “There were a couple of horses that I thought had the possibility of jumping clear and they had a bit of bad luck and had 4 faults.”
When Gringas found her way to the press conference after the class, she seemed a bit stunned that she’d been one of those to leave all the rails in the cups. “I’m on a horse I just got at the end of May, so I’m thrilled to just jump in this class, never mind jump clear with a few time faults,” she said.
“Every time I’ve walked away from jumping one of these Million classes, I’ve learned so much, and I’ve been able to apply it to the next horse show I go to. This has been an amazing opportunity.”
Gringas acknowledged that she’ll have to work on being a bit more prompt in the first round so she can eliminate the time faults and join the jump-offs. “I didn’t mean to go that far out in the corners. I find my horse’s jump very hard to stay with, so sometimes it takes me a bit after tricky lines,” said the Canadian rider, who shows on the HITS Thermal (Calif.) winter circuit. “I have to get back organized and shorten my reins and get to the next jump, so it takes more time than it should. But I’m sure I’ll work on it and I’ll be able to achieve it for the next million class!”
Charlie Jayne hurried home from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France, where he served as the team alternate, and showed Chill R Z in the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix, claiming fourth with the fastest 4-fault round. Candice King was just behind him with Kismet 50 in fifth with a quick 4-fault round of her own.
Course designer Danny Foster built a monster of a course for the million-dollar riders. The HITS staff also designed some innovative jumps, including an impressive Rubik’s Cube jump where huge replicas of the popular toy were the standards of an in-and-out.
“For sure that’s one of the biggest courses I’ve ever jumped,” said Judge. “The width especially was hard; a lot of the oxers were really wide. Coming out of the Rubik’s Cube combination was really wide. It was a big, tough track.”
Only 10 of the 33 starters had 4 faults or less, and there were six horse/rider combinations that retired on course or were eliminated by falls or refusals.
Click here for full results of the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix.