Thermal, CA - Jill Henselwood can start to make her reservations for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. The Canadian Olympian rode Bradon Construction's Bottom Line to the blue ribbon in Sunday’s $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.
A large and boisterous crowd of spectators came out to see the ultimate battle of horse power as Henselwood raced past 40 other starters to test International Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Sr.’s first-round track, which featured a rare quadruple combination, and the seven riders that returned for the jump-off en route to the win. After pocketing the $90,000 first-place check from Sunday's feature class, Henselwood and Bottom Line are now on the top of the mountain in the Pfizer Million Eligible Rider Rankings with $104,100 in prize money and are certain to remain within the Top 40 for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place on September 12, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.
"What an unbelievable finale to the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit," said Henselwood, who celebrated with fellow Canadian John Pearce, after the class. "I will be in Saugerties, New York for the big class. There is a show the week before, so I will come early and get my horses accustomed to the show grounds."
According to Pearce, he will also be at the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. "I will be there without a doubt," he said.
In the first round, Henselwood on Bottom Line got the party started by jumping a clean round, then Andre Thieme, who traveled from the East Coast just for this class, made sure there would be a jump-off when he made it across the timers without dropping any rails aboard Aragon Rouet.
World Cup Veteran Keri Potter on Rockford I, New Zealand Olympian Guy Thomas on Peterbilt, Great Britain's Helen McNaught on Caballo, Susan Hutchinson on Cantano, and Karen Cudmore on Southern Pride all had clean rounds and qualified for the jump-off.
Henselwood on Bottom Line went first in the jump-off and set the tone early with a clean round in 40.15, basically daring the other riders in the class to catch them if they could. Their time survived, untouched, throughout the jump-off and Henselwood pocketed the largest purse in the history of show jumping on the West Coast. "I hope I have enough prize money to qualify, now!" Henselwood joked.
After deciding to leave HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida and fly 3,000 miles to show in the historic $300,000 Lamborghini class, Thieme, of Plau Am See, Germany, found himself second to show in the jump-off aboard Aragon Rouet. The pair laid down a clean round in the jump-off and came across the timers in 42.06 to finish in fifth place, making it a worthwhile trip. Thieme has been showing all winter at HITS Ocala and has amassed seven of the eight Grand Prix classes needed to become eligible for the Pfizer Million. The German high-performance rider has had a very successful season in Ocala, so far, winning the $75,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during week III. Thieme has now placed in five of the six Grand Prix classes he's entered this season at HITS.
Potter on Rockford I was next to take a shot at Petersen's jump-off track. The horse-and-rider team entered the ring with a win in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during Desert Circuit I. Potter, of Del Mar, California, and her mount were on track to become the new leader, but had a rail down in the last line set in front of The Oasis VIP Club and stopped the clock in 39.24 to end in sixth place.
"It was a great circuit," said Potter. "The footing was good, the jumping was great! Today was my eighth Grand Prix, and with a nice paycheck from today's class I am hopefully going to be making arrangements to go to New York for the $1 Million class."
Thomas on Peterbilt went fourth in the jump-off. Earlier in the circuit, they won the $30,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, and had the opportunity to knock Henselwood off the top of the leader board when they went clean, but their time of 40.66 just missed the first-place check.
"What an unbelievable horse," said Thomas. "I couldn't find the flag at the third jump and that cost me a few seconds. I am going to keep my fingers crossed about qualifying for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix because I would love to bring my horse there."
McNaught and Caballo were up next and have been one of the most consistent pairs during the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit, placing near the top of several Grand Prix classes, including a first-place finish in the $30,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during Desert Circuit V. In Sunday's colossal class, the pair had two rails down and finished the class in seventh place.
Susan Hutchinson on El Dorado 29's Cantano were sixth to show and came home clean in 40.71 to grab the yellow ribbon. Karen Cudmore held the enviable last-to-show spot riding Blair Cudmore's Southern Pride and were clean in 41.95 to take fourth place.
"Olaf did a great job today," said Henselwood. "I had never seen a quadruple combination. Maybe that's a preview for what we’ll see in the 2012 London Olympics."
The $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, was the grand finale of the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit and concluded an outstanding season of show jumping at the HITS Desert Horse Park. And while the circuit just ended, several of the top riders that attended the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit are already looking ahead and making plans to travel east to either show in the Pfizer Million or to try to qualify for the big money class.
HITS Ocala holds the next opportunity to qualify for the Pfizer Million with two Grand Prix classes this week, including Sunday’s $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, on March 21. After Ocala, the next opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million will be at HITS Culpeper and HITS Saugerties. HITS Culpeper will host five qualifying Grand Prix classes each worth $40,000 in prize money, while HITS Saugerties will offer 14 Grand Prix classes and one Wild Card class over the eight-week circuit.
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.
$300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Bottom Line Jill Henselwood Bradon Construction $90,000 0 0 40.15
2 Peterbilt Guy Thomas Peterbilt LLC. $66,000 0 0 40.66
3 Cantano Susan Hutchinson El Dorado 29 $39,000 0 0 40.71
4 Southern Pride Karen Cudmore Blair Cudmore $24,000 0 0 41.95
5 Aragon Rouet Andre Thieme Andre Thieme $18,000 0 0 42.06
6 Rockford I Keri Potter Keri Potter $15,000 0 4 39.24
7 Caballo Helen McNaught Helen McNaught $12,000 0 8 42.81
8 S.F. Shakira Michael Endicott David Robinson $9,000 2
9 Riptide Jenni Martin-McAllister Kyle King $9,000 3
10 London Jeff Campf Oz Investments $6,000 4
11 Laricello Duncan McFarlane Alison Heafey $6,000 4
12 Chianto John Pearce Forest View Farm $6,000 4
Photos: Jill Henselwood and Bottom Line on course in Sunday's $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal. © Flying Horse Photography
Jill Henselwood is congratulated by Tony Hitchcock of HITS and Donny Gath and family from Lamborghini Newport Beach after winning the $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © Flying Horse Photography