Saugerties, NY - The horses and riders have arrived, the massive bleachers are up, the special chalet tents are ready, the exclusive VIP facilities are decked out at the Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Arena, and the level of excitement on the grounds at HITS in Saugerties, NY, is striking as the inaugural Pfizer Million, offering the richest purse in show jumping, is now just days away.
The Pfizer Million lifts off on Sunday, September 12, at 1:30 p.m. and will feature an all-star cast of riders that includes Olympic Medalists, World Cup Champions and some of the winningest riders in show jumping history.
The list is headed by McLain Ward and his amazing mare, Sapphire, without question, the greatest show jumper in the long history of show jumping in the United States. Ward, with two Olympic Gold Medals already to his credit, comes to Saugerties after posting the win in last Sunday's $250,000 FTI Hampton Classic Grand Prix. It was the second year in a row that he and Sapphire led the victory gallop on Long Island. Also on Ward's win list this season are the Grand Prix of La Baule, France, the Grand Prix of Rome, The Grand Prix of Dublin and eight major wins here in the United States as well.
The Pfizer Million will be Ward's final event for Sapphire before heading to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, to represent the United States at the Alltech World Equestrian Games next month.
Fans of show jumping in Saugerties will actually have the opportunity to see three of the five riders that will represent the U.S. in Kentucky. Ward will be joined by former World Cup Champion Mario Deslauriers, riding Urico, and Candice King, who brings her rising star Skara Glen's Davos to the Pfizer Million. Deslauriers posted a big win on Thursday at the Hampton Classic in the Grand Prix Qualifier.
The roster is highlighted too by Margie Engle, who has won more Grand Prix classes than any rider in the history of show jumping in America. Engle is approaching the incredible 200 win mark in her stellar career. No rider is even close to her all-time victory total.
One of the most respected riders in the world, Anne Kursinski will be part of the Sunday duel, competing with Samara. In 1983, she won the individual and team Gold Medals for the United States at the Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, and in 1984, was selected for the Gold Medal Team that competed in the Olympics at Los Angeles. In 1988, Anne was a member of the Silver Medal team at the Olympic Games at Seoul, Korea, and was on the 1992 Olympic team in Barcelona. In 1991, Anne was named the female Equestrian Athlete of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee.
The top money winner in the year-long qualifying process for the Pfizer Million is top Canadian rider Jill Henselwood, who bankrolled nearly $105,000 in her race to the top of the Pfizer Million charts.
Over two hundred riders went through the qualifying process for the Pfizer Million, with over seventy of those gaining the necessary eight grand prix competitions to make the original list.
Henselwood, an Olympic Team Silver medalist from the Olympic Games in Hong Kong in 2008, will ride Bottom Line and will join forces in Saugerties with fellow Canadian John Pearce who started out his run for the Pfizer title with a win in the $5,000 Brookledge Welcome Stake on Wednesday. Pearce has Chianto on the start list for Sunday. Other riders flying the Maple Leaf include Hugh Graham who will pilot Executive Privilege 3E, Karen Cudmore on Southern Pride, and Gabrielle Cousin and Aramisse des Pins.
The class will also have a distinct international flair with the addition of Great Britain's Helen McNaught, Germany's Andre Thieme, Columbia's Manuel Torres and Roberto Teran and Duncan McFarlane of New Zealand.
American Invitational champion Armani and rider Jeffery Welles, as well as Grand Prix of Devon winner, Select with Peter Leone, join the fray on Sunday. That dynamic pair will be joined by President's Cup and USEF National Show Jumping champion Todd Minikus, who has been on fire in recent weeks, winning two major HITS Grand Prix classes assuring his participation on Sunday afternoon. He'll ride his long-time partner Pavarotti for the big money.
Jimmy Torano, also the winner of the Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship at Saugerties in 2005, comes to HITS following a second-place finish in the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix on Vince, the horse he'll compete with on Sunday.
Two of the most successful riders in the history of show jumping at HITS, Texan Tracey Fenney (MTM Timon) and Aaron Vale (Paparazzi) will be ready for the Sunday afternoon race to the Pfizer Million's top prize.
Kent Farrington, one of America's most successful show jumpers brings his unique style to Saugerties, and top riders Christine McCrea and Hillary Dobbs are part of the all star line-up. Dobbs, who received a Manager's Wild Card selection, comes to the Pfizer Million after completing a tremendous summer of success on the Meydan FEI Nations Cup tour for the United States Equestrian Team. She'll ride Corlett on Sunday. McCrea partners up with Baloubet Junior Z.
Charlie Jayne and his talented partner Athena, along with Callan Solem and VDL Torlando are on the Sunday start list, as are Tracy Magness, winner of this year's $150,000 Upperville Jumper Classic with her long-time winning partner Tarco Van Ter Moude.
The list of forty-five riders include some of America's fastest rising young stars as well, including seventeen year-old Jessica Springsteen, who yesterday received the last coveted Manager's Wild Card Selection.
Other young riders include eighteen year-old Californian Saer Coulter, Taylor McMurtry (18) of Barrington Hills, Illinois, Kristen VanDerveen (20) of St Charles, Illinois, and New York City's Katie Dinan, the youngest rider in the class at 17, another Wild Card selection.
Rounding out the roster are riders David Jennings (Marcus Aurelius), Megan Edrick (Cadence), David Tromp (Cadence), Matthais Holberg (Iceman), Derek Petersen (Lazaro), Chuck Waters (747), Kate Levy (Vent Du Nord), Kate Gerhart (Timo), Laura Bowery-Falco (Epir), Gavin Moylan (Van Gogh), Michael Kirby (K.T. Undercover) and Jeanne Hobbs (Nielson B).
Ticket sales have been outstanding and a huge crowd in the thousands is expected for what should be an amazing day on Sunday in Saugerties.
Representatives of Pfizer Animal Health, the generous sponsors of this richest event in show jumping history, will be here in full force, with a crowd of over 100 expected in their special ringside chalet.
An all-star team has been assembled by HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. The team includes Olympic Course Designer Steve Stephens, who has brought a unique set of beautiful jumps to be used exclusively for the Sunday main event. The voice of the World Cup Finals, announcer Peter Doubleday, will bring the crowd all of the action, and the Stephens' course will be decorated by Flora Baptiston, recognized as one of the foremost decorators in the world.
Riders will have one final chance to add their name to the star-studded list for the Pfizer Million. It all comes down to the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier/Pfizer Million Wild Card Grand Prix this Saturday, September 11. The winner of Saturday Wild Card Grand Prix, if not already qualified, will automatically earn that 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 welcomes 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® 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.
For more information on VIP arrangements, please contact Tony Hitchcock at tony@HitsShows.com.
General admission tickets are on sale now and available through Ticketmaster as well as the HITS Corporate Office box offices.
More information regarding the Pfizer Million and the John Fogerty concert can be found at www.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: Canadian rider John Pearce, one of the top qualifiers for Sunday's Pfizer Million, is pictured here, winning the $5,000 Brookledge Open Welcome class on Soprano on opening day of the Pfizer Million at HITS Saugerties in Saugerties, New York. © 2010 Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com.