Todd Minikus and Kiekeboe Spirit Have What It Takes in Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round

January 4. 2024

Todd Minikus (USA) started his jump-off in the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round on Thursday with a top-five finish as his only goal. Kiekeboe Spirit, however, had other plans. The nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Darius x Game Boy), owned by the Spirit Group, carried Minikus to an early victory during opening week of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). 

“I watched Darragh go, it looked nice and fast and I thought, ‘well, I’ll probably be riding for fifth’,” said Minikus. He pipped both Richard Vogel (GER) and Darragh Kenny (IRL), who sat one-two before he entered the International Ring. “Everyone knows that it’s not about how you start but how you finish, but it’s always good to get a positive start [to the season].”

Todd Minikus & Kiekeboe Spirit, winners of the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premier Round. Photo © Sportfot

Eric Hasbrouck (USA) set the course in the first major show jumping contest of the WEF season where nine returned for the tier-breaker. Minikus returned second to last and shaved fractions of a second off Vogel’s time to beat in 36.28 seconds. Prior to Minikus, Kenny’s top spot was taken by Vogel and Cydello, owned by Coleridge Equestrian LLC, by a hair splitting one-hundredth of a second. They finished in second on a time of 36.71. Kenny and Eddy Blue, owned by Kerry Anne LLC, set a competitive pace in the jump-off with a clear in 36.72 seconds, eventually taking third.

Richard Vogel & Cydello. Photo © Sportfot

The pair’s jump-off round was a telling sign of their promised success, “I came in on an angle to the combination, which is a question you usually give to a veteran horse, not a green horse, but he came up with the right answer. Once I felt like he was really game, I took the final inside turn which was not part of my original track, but got us the win,” explained Minikus. 

While Minikus and Kiekeboe are making their WEF debut this week, they trace their roots back to Wellington when Minikus first spotted the horse last season. 

“My team and I kept an eye on him and took all the chances we could to see him in the ring. We saw him jump clear from 1.30m all the way to 1.45m,” recalled Minikus, who finally added the mount to his string in July. 

Darragh Kenny & Eddy Blue. Photo © Sportfot

“We’ve had him for just about six months now. He’s nine and all grown up,” said Minkus. “I started showing him over the summer in smaller classes, then tested the waters in some of the two and three-star classes, where he made some green mistakes but overall performed quite well. Over the fall he progressed nicely and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

While Kiekeboe’s clear-round consistency caught the eye of Minikus, the gelding is not his typical ride. “He’s a very big build and I'm used to more of a refined horse typically, but he’s got a lot of blood and he’s careful. You can’t judge a book by its cover.” 

Minikus hopes there are more surprises in store for the new partnership as he now prepares for Sunday’s $75,000 Prestige Italia Grand Prix. “I think the best plan for our season is to constantly assess what place the horse is in and what he’s ready for,” concluded Minikus.

Todd Minikus and Kiekeboe Spirit in their winning presentation with Valerie Arcuri, Southeast Key Account Manager with Adequan®, after the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premier Round. Photo © Sportfot

Colter Shows Up and Shows Out for Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter Title

No stranger to the hunter podium, Wellington’s own Scott Stewart and Colter, owned by Sophie Gochman, took home the top tricolor in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter division on Thursday during opening week of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). 

Scott Stewart & Colter, champions of the Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter division. Photo © Sportfot

Stewart and Colter, a nine-year-old gelding by Franziscus, won two of the four over-fences classes scoring a 90 and 89, as well as taking the win in the under saddle. 

This was Colter’s debut at 3’9” after competing in the 3’6” professional divisions during the fall indoors season with Stewart in the irons, while owner Sophie Gochman focused on her studies.

Sophie Gochman with Colter in their champion presentation for the Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter division. Photo © Sportfot

“It’s a great start to the season and the division,” mentioned Gochman, a 21-year-old History major at Havard. Stewart has been her right hand when it comes to keeping her hunters in top shape. “He’s been a huge help keeping him in the right place,” says Gochman. 

There is only more to come for this hunter trio as Stewart plans to keep Colter in the arena until Gochman takes him into the 3’6” amateur-owner classes later in the season. As for Gochman, she will be one to watch in amateur hunter and jumper divisions, and possibly some grand prixs throughout the season.

Reserve champions in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter division Victoria Colvin and Nanook. Photo © Sportfot

Victoria Colvin, of Loxahatchee, FL, and Nanook, owned by Ashley Hodges took the reserve championship. The pair scored close to the top, including a 90 and high 80s across the board, as well as a second-place finish in the hack for a successful start to the season.