Thermal, CA - With riders from all over the world competing in the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, Joie Gatlin made sure that this time around the blue ribbon and the first-place check stayed in Southern California when she captured the top prize aboard Camaron Hills Quick Dollar at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.
Gatlin beat out the 23 other starters to challenge American Course Designer Steve Stephens' first-round track and the six that advanced to the jump-off in Saturday night's feature class.
"We came in tonight needing to finish in the top three to stay in the chase for a trip to the World Cup Finals and to earn some much-needed prize money to qualify for the $1 Million Class," said Gatlin. "It's hard to keep a horse jumping fresh at one venue for a few weeks in a row, but HITS always seems to make each class special and electric. Thankfully we were able to rise to the occasion tonight."
After Stephens cut the field down to six for the jump-off, an international feel took over the indoor arena. First to challenge the Olympic Course Designer's track was John Pearce riding Forest View Farm's Chianto. The Canadian Olympian entered the show ring with a pair of wins in FEI World Cup Qualifiers, including a blue ribbon in the $50,000 Purina Mills CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during Desert Circuit IV. The talented horse-and-rider team couldn't make it a third triumph as they had 12 faults in the jump-off and finished in sixth place.
New Zealand Olympian Guy Thomas and Willow Tree Farm's Carino showed second in the jump-off. The team won the $30,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during Desert Circuit IV and were poised to earn even more prize money in Saturday night's main event but they dropped two rails along the way and finished in fifth place.
Canada would get another chance to carry the flag into the indoor arena when Karen Cudmore took to the course aboard Blair Cudmore's Ulano. The horse-and-rider combination had an unfortunate rail on the only combination in the jump-off route to finish the class in the second spot.
Peter Lutz was next aboard Kelly Tropin's Turbo Z. Lutz was the first of the three riders remaining in the class that represented the United States but, unfortunately, he had four faults and ended up with the white ribbon when the class was complete.
World Cup Veteran Keri Potter showed fifth in the jump-off aboard Rockford I. The pair had an unlucky rail down midway through the route to finish in third.
Sitting in the cat-bird's seat was Gatlin and Camaron Hills Quick Dollar. They took advantage of the enviable last-to-go spot and came home clean in 34.68 to win the class. "I always have the same strategy in the jump-off," said Gatlin. "It's go fast or be last. I knew all that I had to do was go clean, but I didn't want to change my approach at the last second."
Going into Saturday night’s feature class, Gatlin was one of 15 riders who have met the initial qualification criteria for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and was sitting at number 11 in the preliminary Rankings. With the victory, Gatlin added another big chunk of prize money to her qualified winnings aboard her leading horse, Camaron Hills Quick Dollar, in the chase for the Pfizer Million. With nearly $22,000 in prize money won so far and three remaining Grand Prix qualifiers left at HITS Thermal, including the monstrous $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Sunday, March 14, she has the chance to cement a competitive spot in the Rankings for the historic event by the end of the six-week circuit.
The Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix takes place on September 12 in Saugerties, New York. Currently, several riders from HITS Thermal are near the top in the preliminary Pfizer Million Standings, including Canadian Olympians John Anderson and John Pearce.
Show Jumping at HITS Thermal continues today and features another qualifier for the Pfizer Million when the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, takes center stage in the Grand Prix ring.
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.
$50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Camaron Hills Quick Dollar Joie Gatlin Camaron Hills Farm $15,000 0 0 34.68
2 Ulano Karen Cudmore Blair Cudmore $11,000 0 4 36.01
3 Rockord I Keri Potter Keri Potter $6,500 0 4 36.79
4 Turbo R Peter Lutz Kelly Tropin $4,000 0 4 37.16
5 Carino Guy Thomas Willow Tree Farm $3,000 0 8 34.59
6 Chianto John Pearce Gerald Moore/Forest View Farm Inc. $2,500 0 12 34.65
7 Melisimo Michelle Spadone Morgan Hill Partners $2,000 1
8 Bottom Line Jill Henselwood Bradon Construction $1,500 0
9 Southern Pride Karen Cudmore Blair Cudmore $1,500 4
10 Lou Bega Jill Henselwood Leone Equestrian $1,000 4
11 Son of a Gun John Pearce Forest View Farm $1,000 4
12 El Sueno's Quonto VL Stephanie Saperstein El Sueno De Amisted $1,000 4
Photos: Joie Gatlin in the 50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health at HITS Thermal. © Flying Horse Photography
Joie Gatlin is congratulated after winning the $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health at HITS Thermal. © Flying Horse Photography