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Rolex/USEF National Jumping Championship Presented by Equine Motorcoach Phase 1

Wellington, Fla., Dec. 5-The 2008 Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship presented by Equine Motor Coach kicked off the Florida season in grand style at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington on Dec. 5. Under the lights in the International Ring, 43 horse and rider combinations including 2007 National Champions Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui went to task for the $40,000 Holiday & Horses Opener which served as the first of two legs of the National Championship.

Todd Minikus and Pavarotti won the class and were the best of the 29 American combinations in the running for the national title. With a lightning fast performance in a speed class where faults are converted into time they jumped clear and finished on a time of 69.11 as the third pair in the ring.

"I was disappointed that I had to go early especially with Marengo and Hillary coming right behind me and with 40 some entries - going third usually doesn't hold up. Kent and Up Chiqui and probably a dozen horses in the class that could have been the winner. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (owned by Todd Minikus Ltd.) stands less than 16 hands but found serious airtime as he flew around the course. The Wellington, Fla. rider liked the fact that he could utilize Pavarotti's versatility over Anthony D'Ambrosio's course.

"Anthony did a nice job of giving you inside or around options but if you did the inside option for the most part you had to do the add option in the lines," said Minikus of the course. "Pavarotti has the ability, although he is very short, he has the ability of a very long stride. As far as a championship course it was good, it maybe could have been 1.50 m not 1.45m."

Minikus was relieved he went fast enough for the win, because he knows there are places on the course where he could have gone even quicker.

"I made very tight turns. They weren't forward riding tight turns but they were tidy," she said.

Minikus and Pavarotti were 0.71 seconds fast than the pair that followed them as Hillary Dobbs and Marengo also blazed around the course. Owned by the Dobbs Group, the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding jumped a brave round under the lights.

"I was really lucky," said Dobbs. "It is always hard going early. The first two horses were big horses with big strides and mine is quicker. Todd did all the inside turns, I was debating which ones to do, so I made myself do them all for practice. My horse was amazing. I did some dicey angles... He's always a brave horse and he was backed off just enough so he was super careful."

Dobbs also felt she could have gone faster but that she added strides in a couple of places where Minikus left them out.

"From the triple to the triple bar, I had such a sharp angle I had to do six after the triple bar and Todd did five." said Dobbs. "There were two or three places where I could or should have left out but didn't."

Dobbs, a 20-year-old student at Harvard University whose home is Sussex, N.J., enjoys a distraction from school by coming to Florida even at the end of a long season.

"I don't get sick of it," said Dobbs who hasn't had much of a break all year. "I just want to be at the horse shows and get better. It is also a nice break from school, especially during midterms."

A Herculean effort has gone in to preparing the venue at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center for the Final USEF Championship of 2008 and the 2009 show season. Organizer Mark Bellisimo and hundreds of staff worked around the clock to ensure that the stage was ready when the curtain was drawn.

The second and final leg of the Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship gets underway Sunday afternoon when the riders take to the ring for the $60,000 Holiday and Horses World Cup Qualifier at 2 p.m.

PBIEC INFORMATION & TICKETS: http://www.equestriansport.com 561/793-5867 or http://www.equestriansport.com

THE FACILITY: The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is home to the Winter Equestrian Festival and the site of the first outdoor Nations Cup held in the United States. The competition areas include the 360' x 280' all-weather International Arena, the Bertalan DeNemethy Arena, Mogavero Ring and Grand Hunter Field in addition to several other competition rings. The competition and warm up rings have all-weather footing. Amenities include the International Club, refreshment and shopping areas.

DIRECTIONS: From the Florida Turnpike south, take Exit #93, Lake Worth Blvd., and travel west, crossing over US 441. Travel five miles to South Shore Blvd., turn right on South Shore and proceed one mile to Pierson Road, then turn left at the light. Spectator Entrance is first left, Equestrian Club Road.

From Interstate I-95, take Exit #49. Travel west on Forest Hills Blvd. 11 miles to South Shore Blvd. Turn left on South Shore and follow to Pierson Road. Turn right at the light on Pierson. Spectator Entrance is first left, Equestrian Club Road.

FOOD: A diverse menu of food and beverages is available at the vendor courtyard and at vendor areas around the International Arena, and are open during show hours.

SHOPPING: The vendor courtyard and individual booths around the International Arena offer equestrian equipment, apparel, jewelry, home furnishings and more.

CAR RENTAL: Enterprise Rent-a-Car for your car rental needs. Call 1-800-593-0505 or go online to enterprise.com and use the WEF reference number 41W0087 and the PIN; win for a discount.

HOTELS: Hampton Inn and Suites Wellington

2155 Wellington Green Drive, Wellington, FL 561-472-9696

(Closest hotel, just two miles from show grounds)

Hampton Inn Lake Worth Road

8205 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth, FL 561-472-5980

(New location just five miles from Wellington)

Hampton Inn West Palm Beach

Okeechobee Blvd. at Jog Rd.

2025 Vista Parkway, West Palm Beach, FL 561-682-9990

(Just 12 miles away at Emerald Dunes)

GOLF CARS: Dever, Inc., the Official & Exclusive Supplier of Golf Cars. Orders and information at http://www.deverinc.com or telephone Dever Inc.'s PBIEC office at 859-509-7265 or the home office at 800-714-2201.

Photo: Hillary Dobbs and Marengo finished second in the speed phase of the Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship presented by Equine Motorcoach at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Friday night.

Photo Credit: Ken Braddick-HorseSport USA


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