Desert Circuit II Week in Review: McLain Ward's FEI World Cup Qualifier Victory highlights the Week at HITS Thermal
RELEASE: February 11, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By the HITS Media Team
Photo by Flying Horse Photography (McLain Ward and Phillipa)
Two-time Olympic Gold medal winner McLain Ward raised the roof during the $50,000 Strongid® C 2X CSI-W Grand Prix when he rode Sagamore Farm's Phillipa to the triumph before an enthusiastic crowd that filled the indoor arena at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, CA.
Ward traveled from Brewster, NY, to get a jump start on qualifying for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place at HITS-on-the-Hudson, in Saugerties, NY, on September 12. The show jumping icon couldn't have picked a better class to shine in as the Pfizer representatives were in town and had front-row seats when he mastered the course.
Desert Circuit II also featured Thursday's $30,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and Sunday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. In Thursday's main event, Canadian Olympian John Anderson was terrific, once again, when he rode Foxdale Farm's Terrific to the triumph.
During Desert Circuit I, Anderson placed second in both Grand Prix events, giving him the early lead in the Catena Leading Grand Prix Rider Award and thanks to Thursday's win, he extended the gap in the standings. The top-ranked Grand Prix rider on the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit will receive a beautiful Catena diamond-face watch at the conclusion of the $300,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert on Sunday, March 14.
On Sunday, the Grand Prix action shifted back outdoors when the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, took the stage. In the end, it was Karen Cudmore of Omaha, NE, taking the top honors when she rode Blair Cudmore's Ceonto to the win.
International Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios has been setting courses at the HITS Desert Circuit for nearly 20 years and was at HITS Thermal for the first two weeks of the 2010 season. “These were big shows with lots of competitors in my rings, which made for great classes during the week,” said Palacios. “On Thursday the speed class was really nice. The Indoor ring is working really good. We had great numbers in the Futures class in the morning with many clean rounds and a beautiful jump-off. At night, I set a strong course for the World Cup, and I thought the riders were jumping good. I was expecting four to go clean and we had six. The footing in that ring is coming along nicely.”
In a year when many riders are making a go for the WEG Trials, Palacios was pleasantly surprised at the quantity and quality of riders competing at the HITS Desert Circuit. “We had McLain Ward, Michele Spadone, Rich Fellers, plus plenty of great California riders who showed in all three Grand Prix classes this week. There were more than 60 different horses showing in the Grand Prix classes over the course of the week, that was really surprising!” HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri feels the strong high-performance showing is a result of the anticipation of the Pfizer Million.
Palacios was also very complimentary on the footing improvements made at the HITS Desert Horse Park. “I was not in Thermal last year, but I did notice that the footing in both the Indoor and the main Grand Prix ring has improved a lot since 2008. The RotoGroomer machine they are using to drag the rings is a very sweet machine. You can’t find a better consistency.”
Palacios is now off to Ocala, FL, where he will set the Grand Prix courses for the opening week of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit.
Desert Circuit III is sure to satisfy the Grand Prix riders with another three Grand Prix classes on the ticket for the high-performance riders, including Saturday night's $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.Sonoma Stables Shines
So far, the majority of the ribbons from the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby will be heading back to Northern California with the crew from Sonoma Valley Stables. In Sunday's two-round classic, professional Hope Glynn rode two horses to a top finish and two of her students each piloted one horse to a ribbon. In all, the crew from Sonoma Stables were responsible for four of the eight horses to win money in Sunday’s popular two-round classic.
Glynn, who finished near the top in last week’s Devoucoux Hunter Derby, guided Sabrina Hellmen’s Woodstock to the yellow ribbon and rode Courtney Sibert’s Tessa to a sixth-place finish. Meanwhile, sisters Avery and Eleanor Hellman were seventh and eighth, respectively, in the class riding their horses Roccoco and Landon.
In fact, the entire Hellman family had a great week at HITS Thermal, as mother Sabrina Hellman was the winner of the $500 Bit O' Straw Hunter Classic with scores of 84 and 85 in the two-round classic. Olivia Hellman was champion in the Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 for the second week in a row on her mount Woodstock, who also was reserve champion in the Second-Year Green Hunters.
Younger sister Eleanor Hellman rode Clooney 9 to be champion in the Low Amateur/Owner Jumpers, and her horse Landon was reserve champion in the Adult Equitation and won the Foxfield Medal. The baby of the family, Avery Hellman, who just returned from studying abroad in Vietnam for four months, kept the family in the winners’ circle after earning a reserve championship in the Small Junior Hunters with Winter.HITS crowns 2010 Golf Tournament Champions
The greens at Bermuda Dunes Country Club turned Gold on Monday when the annual HITS Desert Circuit Golf Tournament took place. Top riders, such as McLain Ward, Guy Thomas, Harley Brown, Eddie Macken and John Anderson, took to the world-renowned course with their team, captained by trainer Joe Thorpe, coming out on top for the second year in a row.
Sponsors of the tournament were Willowbrook Stables, Sanjay Bagai, Bridgeport Farm, Rubicon Stables and Sonoma Valley Stables. Thanks to their generosity, golfers received a gift bag and prize packages from the golf course. High-Performance Riders Honored
On Friday evening, more than two dozen of the top Grand Prix riders from the HITS Desert Circuit were honored at a special reception at the newly opened Morgan’s in the Desert restaurant at La Quinta Resort & Club. Guests enjoyed a bounty of delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by Morgan’s star chef, Jimmy Schmidt, complemented by a selection of California red and white wines.
HITS Desert Circuit High-Performance Committee member and Grand Prix rider Guillermo Obligado had a great time at the reception. “It was a great event. There were lots of fun people there and it was a super night,” said Obligado. “The Circuit is off to a nice start. The World Cup class in the Indoor ring was very nice. HITS did a great job making that special.” What's Next?
Show jumping at the HITS Desert Circuit resumes with Desert Circuit III. In addition to hosting the $10,000 Chronicle of the Horse
/United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) International Hunter Derby on Saturday, February 13, HITS Thermal will also host the 2010 Dressage Getaway CDI*** February 9-14. Highlighting the week for jumpers will be three more Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix qualifiers, including the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Saturday night in the indoor arena.
In Saturday night's big-money class, riders will look to gain valuable points in the Royal Champion Leading World Cup Rider Standings. So far, Ward is in the lead thanks to his win in last week’s FEI World Cup Qualifier. However, riders like Keri Potter and Canadian Olympian John Pearce are right on his heels.
In order to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, a rider must compete in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. The top 40 riders, based on money won by horse/rider combination, will be eligible to ride for the Pfizer Million. For more detailed information on the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix or for a complete schedule of classes and events at HITS shows, please visit www.HitsShows.com