Saugerties, NY - The inaugural Pfizer Million, with the richest purse in show jumping, scheduled for Saugerties, New York, on September 12th, will play host to a world class line-up of the country's best horse and rider combinations. That already glittering roster of stars got even brighter this weekend when HITS President Tom Struzzieri awarded one of the five coveted Manager's Wild Card picks for the big money event to United States Chef d' Equipe George Morris.
With that selection, Morris tabbed Mario Deslauriers and Jane Clark's Urico to compete in the Pfizer Million as their final test prior to the Alltech World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. With the addition of Deslauriers, the main event will now feature three of the five riders that will represent the United States in the World Championships in Kentucky.
McLain Ward qualified for the Pfizer Million earlier in the season and will ride his Olympic Gold Medal partner Sapphire. Candice King just added her name to the roster and will partner with her WEG mount, Skara Glen's Davos.
HITS President, Tom Struzzieri explained how the awarding of the Manager's Wild Card pick unfolded. "George approached me early in the season about the chances of using the Pfizer Million as a preparatory event for all of the WEG team members. While the thought having the entire team here sounded enticing at the time, especially because of the added promotional value their participation would offer, my loyalty to my long-time customers and supporters easily overrode that initial excitement," Struzzieri admitted. "Once we had McLain and Candice qualified and it was determined that Laura (Kraut) and Lauren (Hough) would be competing abroad, I felt that offering one of our Manager's picks to Mario would not compromise the original intentions and values set forth for this event."
"George Morris has been an important part of the HITS family for a long time now, and there's no one in the industry whose opinion I respect more," said Struzzieri. "I'm tremendously pleased that the Pfizer Million will now play a significant role in the United States' bid to become World Champions in Lexington in October."
"I've always had a great relationship with Tom, I've known him and worked with him for many, many years, so the discussion of the Manager's Wild Card was based on a long relationship of mutual respect," related Morris.
Morris discussed Tom's ultimate decision to offer a spot to him to use for Deslauriers. "I really wanted that particular show and that particular class to be the last preparation for the horses that are going to the World Equestrian Games. He already has McLain qualified to compete. McLain is a big supporter of Tom and competes at so many of his shows that that wasn't a problem. Candice, who is in our fifth position, stables with Tom much of the year and qualified on her own for the Pfizer Million," he explained. "Laura Kraut and Lauren Hough, who are based in Europe for the better part of the year, expressed a desire to compete at Madrid, Spain, as their final prep for WEG and I thought that was a perfect option for them."
"The one rider that wasn't qualified for HITS, and wasn't based in Europe, was Mario Deslauriers with his mount Urico," Morris detailed. "In my mind, the Pfizer Million would be the perfect last event for him before going to the WEG. I asked Tom if that was possible, and being always the gentleman and the giver that he has been to me, he said that was doable."
"For HITS, and most importantly, for the many show jumping fans that will be there for the Pfizer Million, having members of the United States WEG team competing just before they head to the World Championship is a very, very exciting addition to an already groundbreaking event," added Struzzieri.
"I can't thank Tom enough," smiled Morris, "because this puts everybody in a great place for their last show before the World Equestrian Games. For Tom and HITS, and for the Pfizer Million, that's quite an impressive feat, to have three of the five WEG team members to compete at his inaugural event. I think it will be a great help to him to get that class off the ground in grand style," he added.
Regarding the event itself, Morris stated, "The Pfizer Million is a very important class for our country. I think Tom realizes how important it is to up the ante here in America. We go to Europe and we go to Calgary and we see what they have to offer, so it's vital for us to offer the cash to be commensurate with those tours that offer big money on a weekly basis. We have to be able to compete with them. The Pfizer Million is a very important class because it's domestically oriented and addresses the big money issue," he noted.
"This was a bold, bold step on Tom's part, but that's no surprise, he has always stepped up to the plate. He has never hesitated about stepping up to the plate," said Morris.
Joining the WEG riders, and adding her flair to the star-studded collection of equestrian talent, will be Canadian Olympic Team Silver Medalist from Hong Kong, Jill Henselwood, the top money winner on the Pfizer Million Qualifying List.
Henselwood will unite in Saugerties with fellow Canadians John Pearce, Hugh Graham and Jenn Serek. The class will also have a distinct international flair with the addition of Great Britain's Helen McNaught, Germany's Andre Thieme and Duncan McFarlane of New Zealand.
Top American competitors include 2000 Olympic alternate Todd Minikus who got his eighth Grand Prix just this past Sunday to gain a valuable spot on the Pfizer Million roster. The winningest rider in the history of American show jumping, Margie Engle, with over 180 career wins, will arrive in Saugerties on another incredible winning streak, posting an impressive seven Grand Prix victories since the first of the year.
American Invitational champion Jeffery Welles and Grand Prix of Devon winner, Peter Leone, have made their entries for the main event and also on the roster is Jimmy Torano who won the $150,000 Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship at Saugerties in 2005.
Also adding her name to the highly competitive mix will be one of HITS' most successful grand prix riders of all time, Texan Tracey Fenney.
Kent Farrington, one of America's most successful show jumpers, and Michelle Spadone, a member of the United States Show Jumping team on the Meydan FEI Nations Cup Tour in Europe, both qualified and have already confirmed their participation in the Pfizer Million.
The roster of definite qualified participants is expanding daily and includes Christine McCrea, Taylor McMurtry, Kristen VanderVeen, David Tromp and Californian Saer Coulter.
Riders have three more opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million starting with this week's $40,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Culpeper on Sunday, August 29 followed by the final two qualifiers which will take place next week at HITS Saugerties. After that, it will be down to the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier/Pfizer Million Wild Card Grand Prix on Saturday, September 11. The winner of Saturday night's Wild Card, if not already qualified, will earn the final spot in the order for Pfizer Million on Sunday.
In addition to the richest purse in show jumping history, exhibitors will have a chance to enjoy legendary rock star, John Fogerty, in concert following the Pfizer Million.
Other special events include the not to be missed HITS-on-the-Hudson Equestrian Art Auction on Friday, September 10, and then on Saturday night, HITS will welcome everybody to a special exhibitor party to follow the $50,000 Pfizer Million Wild Card/FEI World Cup Qualifier.
Those attending the Pfizer Million will get to experience HITS hospitality at its finest, including the great food offered up by famed chef Ric Orlando. Orlando will prepare the special Grand Prix Luncheon on Sunday in the Pfizer Million Clubhouse.
Continental breakfast will be served Wednesday to Saturday, and lunch will be served buffet style from Wednesday to Saturday. On Sunday, Orlando will be spotlighted as he presents an exclusive and delicious Pfizer Million luncheon in his infamous "Chef Ric" style.
In addition to Orlando's cooking, The Pfizer Million VIP Clubhouse and the Chalets-on-the-Finish Line, and will be run by the talented VIP hospitality team of Bobby Drennan and Chris Pace. HITS Saugerties, welcome Drennan and Pace from the Thermal Oasis Club in Thermal, CA, where they are known for their superior VIP services.
Located directly in between the two respective stages for the aforementioned events of the Sunday spectacular, The Pfizer Million Clubhouse offers VIPs the opportunity to watch the Pfizer Million in the stunning and expansive stone-enclosed Strongid(R) C 2X Grand Prix Arena, and then simply turn their chairs to watch the John Fogerty concert that will take place in the Main Hunter Stadium, another exquisite stone-enclosed arena on the other side of The Pfizer Million Clubhouse.
Tables for eight are priced at $2,500 for the entire show week, and include every amenity you could imagine!
In addition to wining and dining, VIPs will receive eight concert tickets to watch the concert from their table, as well as VIP Parking and the opportunity not only to walk the very course that will determine the ultimate champion of the Pfizer Million, but also to get an exclusive tour of the stable area and an inside look at the preparation that goes into readying horse and rider for a class of such prestige.
The Chalets-on-the Finish Line provide the perfect solution for those looking to entertain a larger number of guests. Holding up to 50 people, the chalets will be located on the east berm of the Stongid(R) C 2X Grand Prix Stadium. The 20' x 30' tents enclosed by a picket fence will include tables and chairs, while catering must be arranged separately through HITS. Following the Pfizer Million, those who were in the chalets will have 50 tickets per chalet to enter the Preferred VIP seating section of the Chalet Backstretch tent, which is located just south of the Chalets-on-the-Finish Line and directly overlooks the concert stage. Chalets-on-the-Finish Line packages will also include a chance to meet the Pfizer Million riders for an up close and personal autograph session, as well as the aforementioned opportunity to walk the course and tour the stable area.
This once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the finest Grand Prix show jumping in the world from every vantage point is one you will not want to miss!
For more information on VIP arrangements, please contact Tony Hitchcock at tony@HitsShows.com.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events at HITS Saugerties, visit 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.
Photo Credit: U.S. Chef D' Equipe George Morris and HITS President Tom Struzzieri. (c) Flying Horse Photography.