Thermal, CA - An action-packed week for the High-Performance riders showing at Desert Circuit III went into full throttle on Thursday night when McLain Ward rode Goldika 559 to a triumph in the $30,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
A boisterous crowd packed the indoor arena at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California to watch Ward and Goldika 559 beat out 31 other horse-and-rider teams on International Course Designer Olaf Petersen's track en route to winning the blue in the $30,000 speed class.
Ward, from Brewster, New York, is certainly making the most out of his journey to the West Coast. The two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner rode Sagamore Farm's Phillipa to the top prize in last Saturday's $50,000 Strongid C 2X CSI-W Grand Prix and, after Thursday’s win, he is the first rider to win multiple Grand Prix classes at the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit.
"It's been a great trip, so far," said Ward. "I am glad HITS Thermal is part of my regular schedule. To be able to come out here and win some great prize money against some top riders has been wonderful. I feel like I am on the right track to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix."
With the victory, Ward continues to earn precious prize money and qualifying classes in the chase for the Pfizer Million. With a schedule that features most of the spring and summer at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York, Ward seems certain to hit the eight Grand Prix classes needed to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place on September 12 at HITS-on-the-Hudson.
Ward and his mount were the first duo to show on Petersen's course and they set the tone right from the start coming home in 56.72 seconds. The rest of the field tried to play catch up, but when the class was complete it was Ward who would collect the first-place check of $9,000.
The second horse-and-rider pair to show were Canadian Olympian John Pearce and Forest View Farm's Chianto. They were fast, clean and mastered the route in 57.08 to finish in second place. Pearce, who has yet to capture a blue in any Grand Prix event this season at HITS Thermal, has been near the top in every Grand Prix and that seems to make him very happy. "I am earning some good money to qualify for the Pfizer Million class," said Pearce. "I would sure like to win Saturday ($50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health). I would also like to say that it is nice to have McLain here. He keeps me on my toes!"
Another serious threat to Ward's time came when Helen McNaught (Woodside, California) and Caballo showed in the 24th position. They seemed willing to make the daring turns that would be needed to take down Ward, but came home just off the pace in 57.18 to land in third place. "I tried the inside turn because nobody else did it and I knew it was my best shot to win," said McNaught. "I just went too slowly in the beginning."
Pearce's countryman and fellow Olympian, John Anderson, finished fourth aboard Foxdale Farm's Terrific, while Guy Thomas (Woodside, California) and Peterbilt LLC's Peterbilt rounded out the top five.
Show Jumping at HITS Thermal continues all weekend with Desert Circuit III and features the $10,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby, which will be held tonight. There will also be two more qualifiers for the 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 and Sunday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
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, please visit our website at www.hitsshows.com/.
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.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.
McLain Ward and Goldika 559 on course in the $30,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
HITS' Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock congratulates McLain Ward after winning the $30,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
© Flying Horse Photography