Culpeper, VA - Peter Leone and Nerval de la Batia, owned by The Beaupre Group, are on the road to the Pfizer Million as they took home the victory in Sunday's $40,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to highlight the Commonwealth National.
"It means a lot to me to come here and kick-off the season," said Leone of Greenwich, Connecticut, who competed in his first of eight needed Pfizer Million Grand Prix qualifiers. "Tom Struzzieri and HITS have done a fantastic thing organizing the [Pfizer] $1 Million Grand Prix as a year-end finale."
Leone was one of 18 to compete on a course designed by Danny Foster of Canada, that only saw four horse and rider teams return for the jump-off. "I thought the course was excellent," said Leone. "It was a long and very challenging course."
As the beautiful weather set in, so did the anticipation as the first 11 competitors were unable to secure a clean round.
Gavin Moylan and Icon, owned by Meadowville Farm, were 12th to show as the Virginia native and HITS Culpeper veteran earned the first clean round of the class. "When I walked the course the feeling in my stomach said only three to four would go clean," said Leone. At the end of the first round, Leone, Alexa Lowe and Ragan Roberts would join Moylan in the jump-off.
First to show in the jump-off, Moylan was en route to a double clear effort, but a rail down on the last fence set the pace at four faults in 43.221 seconds. Moylan would ultimately place fourth.
Alexa Lowe and her own Credit Cruise took over the lead next with four faults in 39.829 seconds. The team would ultimately settle into third place.
With only two rounds remaining, Peter Leone and his nine year-old Selle Franceais looked for the win. "I thought the jump-off round was unusual," said Leone. "It had a lot of ground and a lot of galloping - but it was a great course." Leone secured the first double-clear effort as he set the Great American Time to Beat in 39.286 seconds.
Last to show were Ragan Roberts and Quipit L.F., owned by Quipit Group, as the team looked for the win. Roberts was able to score a clean round, however, his time of 47.792 seconds would be good enough for second place.
The first Grand Prix victory of the year for Leone will undoubtedly give him and Nerval de la Batia momentum heading into the upcoming spring and summer circuits.
"I bought him [Nerval de la Batia] as a six year-old from Francois Mathy of Belgium," said Leone. "Each year he continues to get better-I'm so lucky that I have such great horses and great owners who let me participate."
"Peter is such a great rider and trains his horses beautifully," said course designer Danny Foster. "I thought it was a great group of competitors out there and a great way to start the season."
As the Commonwealth National comes to an end, the road to the Pfizer Million prepares for its next stop on May 26, at the HITS-on-the-Hudson venue in Saugerties, New York. Show jumping returns to HITS Commonwealth Park for two consecutive starting with the Showday National (July 7 - 11) which will be highlighted by the $40,000 Strongid C 2X 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 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.
$40,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Nerval de la Batia Peter Leone The Beaupre Group $12,000 0 0 39.286
2 Quipit L.F. Ragan Roberts Quipit Group $8,800 0 0 47.792
3 Credit Cruise Alexa Lowe Alexa Lowe $5,200 0 4 39.829
4 Icon Gavin Moylan Meadowville Farm $3,200 0 4 43.221
5 Tarco Van Ter Moude Tracy Magness Mr. & Mrs. John Bartko $2,400 4
6 Frieda Ainsley Vince KMA Group $2,000 4
7 Nadyleen Alexa Lowe Alexa Lowe $1,600 4
8 Timo Kate Gerhart Cathy Gerhart $1,200 4
9 KT UnderCover Michael Kirby Michael Kirby $1,200 4
10 Ganon Sulu Rose-Reed The Galloping Field $800 8
11 Anton Francoise Lamontagne Francois Lamontagne $800 8
12 Larry 0146 Lauren Hunkin Synergy Farm $800 8
Photos: Peter Leone and Nerval de la Batia win their first Grand Prix of the season at HITS Culpeper in Sunday's $40,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.
Kristen Vale of HITS presents Leone with the award for the $40,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.