Road to the Pfizer Million: HITS Winter Circuits Produce First Group of Eligible Riders and a Top 40
RELEASE: April 8, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By the HITS Media Team
The Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix has been the talk of the town this winter as the excitement amongst the world's top riders is on the rise in anticipation of qualifying for this unprecedented event. Over the course of the HITS Winter Circuits, 159 top Grand Prix riders took advantage of 35 HITS Pfizer Million Qualifiers as they vied for $1.5 million in prize money and one of 40 coveted slots on the Pfizer Million Eligible Rider Rankings List.
The Winter Circuits in Thermal and Ocala produced 45 eligible riders who competed in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. The Top 40 Eligible Riders based on money won on their leading horse is a diverse group of renowned riders from around the country, and around the world. Riders from the East and West Coasts, as well as those who reside internationally, now occupy the top 10 spots of the rankings. Canadian Olympic Silver medalist Jill Henselwood tops the list with $104,100 on Bottom Line thanks to her first-place finish in the $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, while New Zealand's Guy Thomas is in second with $83,950 aboard his leading horse, Peterbilt. Texas' Tracy Fenney used her win in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, to take hold of the number three spot on the rankings, followed by California riders Keri Potter in fourth with $53,150 aboard Rockford I and Susan Hutchison in fifth with $43,500 aboard Cantano. Great Britain's Helen McNaught and Maryland's Tracy Magness are currently tied for sixth with $43,000 in prize money on their mounts, while East Coast rider Callan Solem is in eighth with $42,000. Rounding out the top 10 are Canadian Olympians John Anderson and John Pearce with $40,900 and $39,950 in prize money, respectively.
"The current Top 40 is a dynamic and diverse group of riders, who are very serious about making the final cut for the Pfizer Million," said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. "There's also a very competitive group of riders that have yet to become eligible who plan to use the summer shows in Culpeper and Saugerties as their launching pad to make the list. Now's the time when things are going to start really heating up as riders who are eligible will focus on adding to their winnings to remain on the Top 40, while those looking to become eligible attempt to do the same."
Many of the world's best riders have already begun plotting their approach to the upcoming spring/summer qualifying schedule. Former Olympian Todd Minikus got a jump start on qualifying by competing at Ocala and talked about his plans to continue on the Road to the Pfizer Million. "I will ride Olinda, Alaska, and Pavarotti this summer in Saugerties to get qualified, but then I hope to ride Pavarotti in the (Pfizer) Million."
Regarding the Pfizer Million and its invaluable benefit to the equestrian sport for America, Minikus explained, "I think it is a great set-up. It is important that riders have to qualify, and I think that if Tom (Struzzieri) puts up a class that supports the sport like that, then it is then our job as riders to make it a point to be there to support him and the sport. A class like this helps everybody in the industry, from the bottom of the scale to the top. Somebody might watch the class and want to start taking riding lessons, you just never know. Riders benefit, owners benefit, the sport benefits. It truly is a win-win-win situation."
Tracy Magness of Maryland has also set her sights on accruing more prize money over the course of the summer. She reflected on her winter success with Tarco Van Ter Moude, and shared her plans for the future. "We had a very good start to the season in Ocala this winter, and I plan to go to Culpeper to take advantage of the April qualifier. I will continue to ride Tarco, for the qualifiers and the class. He and I are old partners, I've had him for about five years, and we know each other really well. Last year we ended up leading the USPGL Rider List." The Pfizer Million, Magness explained, "gives riders a rare opportunity to jump for that kind of money. I think that for the sport, it will bring more sponsors, better riders, better horses, and I think that it is a great thing."
Based in Ocala, FL, Chuck Waters had a successful winter season at HITS Ocala and expressed, "I would be delighted to qualify. Right now, I have six of the eight qualifiers, and have been third, fourth, and fifth in Ocala this winter with a horse named 747, a 13-year-old French gelding." Offering his insight on the value of the class, Waters explained, "It has captured a lot of people's imaginations. It is a remarkable amount of money for this sport. It will be a difficult class and it will be difficult to qualify. Forty slots might seem like a lot now, but it's not that many when you take into consideration how many people's imaginations have been captured. Everyone who breeds a Thoroughbred baby dreams of getting to the Kentucky Derby, and everyone that has done a HITS Grand Prix this season dreams of getting into this class. It is the Kentucky Derby of show jumping."
Struzzieri is pleased with the results from the winter qualifying period and the current yield of eligible riders, as well as those in the hunt. "This event is aimed at rewarding our customers and giving them the chance to be a part of something historic in the sport of United States show jumping. I'm proud to be able to offer this opportunity to the riders that have been loyal to HITS throughout the years and have supported us. This is one of the many ways we look to give back to them for their support."
Give back indeed, as the payout for the Pfizer Million will be split over 20 places, with the winner taking home the largest single purse in the history of show jumping at $350,000(USD). In addition to the Final Qualified Top 40 Riders, the Pfizer Million will also welcome five riders chosen at the discretion of management, and the winner of the Wild Card Class on September 11.
Struzzieri notes that HITS will select five riders not already qualified for the Pfizer Million and plans to announce that group sometime in August. "We will use all five of our discretionary spots, so in the end, the Pfizer Million will have as many as 46 riders in the order."
High-performance riders hoping to take part in this unprecedented United States show jumping event have plenty of opportunities left to qualify for the final Pfizer Million. Throughout the spring and summer, HITS Culpeper will be home to five $40,000 qualifiers, while HITS Saugerties will host 14 qualifiers, as well as a Wild Card Class, which will double as an FEI World Cup Qualifier on Saturday, September 11, 2010. The 14 Saugerties qualifiers include a $25,000 Grand Prix each week of the spring and summer shows, as well as a $50,000 Grand Prix Weeks I and IV, $75,000 Grand Prix Weeks II and V, and $125,000 Grand Prix Weeks III and VI.
The next qualifying opportunity will take place in Culpeper, VA, during the Commonwealth National, April 21-25. Following the Commonwealth National, HITS Saugerties will get under way in May with six qualifiers in the first three week series from May 26-June 13. Prize Lists are available, for more information, please visit www.hitsshows.com
In order to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix a rider must compete in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. Once a rider has hit eight, money won on their leading horse places them in the rankings. Come September, the Top 40 riders in the rankings will qualify to ride for the Pfizer Million, on September 12.
HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS will take the industry to new heights when it hosts the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties on September 12.