Todd Minikus Kicks Off The Weekend With A Win

Saugerties, NY - September 10, 2011 – The HITS-on-the-Hudson show grounds have been transformed into a who’s who of the equestrian elite. Riders, horses, trainers, owners and grooms alike, from all corners of the world have made HITS Saugerties their home for the return of the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the premier of the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final.  Starting the weekend with a win, Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, Florida earned the blue in the $30,000 Wild Card Qualifier, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, aboard Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, Inc.’s Sweetheart.

Of the 47 starters, nine were clear over Steve Stephens’ first round track. As two elected not to advance, seven competed in the second round on Friday. The Palmetto, Florida Olympic course designer will set the course for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix.  “He didn’t show us any of his real tricks,” said Minikus of Stephens’ course. “I have heard some thought last year’s Pfizer Million course was too easy, so we are in for some real show jumping on Sunday.”

In the jump-off Minikus rode cleanup and clean up he did, posting a jump-off time of 39.46 seconds, well within the 53 seconds time allowed, and knocked Ainsley Vince of Burlington, Ontario to second. Vince was first to show in the jump-off aboard Elizabeth Bates’ Pirouette with hopes of earning a wild card berth in Sunday’s Pfizer Million. She entered the ring all about speed and posted a clear round in 41.84 seconds to set the Great American Time to Beat, which was bested by Minikus in the last to go spot.

“This class was a good warm-up for Sunday,” said Minikus. “The footing will be perfect by then and there are only a couple classes like the [Pfizer Million] in the world. I love being a part of it and helping to promote the sport.”

Jill Henselwood of Oxford, Ontario claimed the third-place ribbon with a clear jump-off round in 45.08 seconds. The Olympic Silver Medalist rode Brian Gingras’ IV Ever and the pair will return on Sunday for the Pfizer Million.

$5,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome

After a win in last week’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, Laura Chapot again rode to the blue. She won the $5,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome on Wednesday at HITS-on-the-Hudson. She sealed the victory aboard Mary Chapot's Umberto.

Pfizer Million Weekend Has Arrived
On Sunday, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward of Brewster, New York will be hungry to defend his place as the one and only Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix champion aboard Grant Road Partners, LLC’s Antares F. It, however, won’t be an easy trip as the best horses and riders from around the world have arrived in New York all coveting the blue ribbon and its $350,000 first-place check.

Charlie Jayne of Elgin, Illinois and London Group’s Athena finished fractions of a second behind Ward in last year’s jump-off duel. The pair is back in town with hopes of a second chance at a Pfizer Million victory. Also returning from last year’s inaugural field is 20-year-old Saer Coulter of San Francisco, California.

“It is amazing to be part of something that is so incredible for the sport,” said Coulter. “Riding in Europe has shown me how much energy and time is put into their events and HITS is working to create something of similar prestige in the U.S. with the Pfizer Million.”

Also joining Ward is one of the winningest female equestrians in the world, Margie Engle of West Palm Beach, Florida who will ride Indigo owned by Garber, Griese and Hidden Creek & Gladewinds. Minikus will ride his own Pavarotti after the pair capped the top ten in last year’s Pfizer Million. Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas will ride MTM Farm’s MTM Timon and try to use the momentum she has gained over the past two weeks, including her win in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to put on a blue ribbon performance.

Coulter is not the only California rider to make an appearance in the 2011 Pfizer Million as HITS has attracted droves of West Coast talent to make the cross-country journey for the world’s richest weekend in show jumping. Both Duncan McFarlane and Helen McNaught of San Ramon, California landed at HITS last week and have made an impressive entrance, scoring two top-ten finishes in Sunday’s $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Both Pfizer Million veterans, McFarlane will pilot Simone Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy and McNaught will show in the irons of her own Caballo.

"I love coming here for the atmosphere and the beauty of this area," said McFarlane. "We were here last year and are happy to be back."

Rising star Lucy Davis of Los Angeles, California rode to several honors during the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California, including a win in the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach. The 18-year-old will make her debut in the Pfizer Million aboard Old Oak Farm’s Nemo 119.

Not only are they West Coast riders, but McFarlane and McNaught will also top a list of International riders visiting HITS for the Pfizer Million. McFarlane hails from New Zealand and McNaught from Great Britain. Representing Canada alongside Henselwood will be Olympian John Pearce of Bermuda Dunes, California aboard Forest View Farm’s Chianto. The duo rode to a third-place finish in the 2010 Pfizer Million. Rounding out the Canadian riders is Karen Cudmore of Omaha, Nebraska in the irons of Blair Cudmore’s Ceonto.

“We are preparing Olympic riders with classes like these,” said Henselwood. “The opportunity doesn’t come often to ride courses this difficult in front of crowds this big. It is a perfect introduction to Olympic riding.”

Daniel Bluman of Weston, Florida won the $100,000 USGPL Invitational Grand Prix in Culpeper, Virginia in 2009; the year before it transformed into the acclaimed Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. The 21-year-old Columbian equestrian will ride his own Fatalis Fatum in hopes of reclaiming that crown.

Darragh Kenny, Darragh Kerins and Kevin Babington will represent their home country of Ireland this weekend. Kenny will ride The Wannahave Group’s Wannahave, Kerins will pilot Miranda Fischer’s Hot Wheels and Babington will be in the irons of his own Mark Q.

Andres Thieme will ride for Germany aboard his own Aragon Rouet, while Mark Watring will represent Puerto Rico on Horseworks Etc, LLC’s Green Sleeps Vioco. Other international riders include Hector Florentino of the Dominican Republic aboard Stransky’s Mission Farms, Inc.’s Ultimo and Federico Sztyrle of Argentina on Crossfire, LLC’s Crossfire 10.

The field is now set for Sunday’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and riders are poised to meet some of the biggest and most technical show jumping in the world. The Pfizer Million will follow the first-ever Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final as Hunter riders ride for the biggest purse in the sport’s history. Pfizer Million Weekend wraps up as Motown legends The Temptations take the stage at HITS-on-the-Hudson.

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 took the industry to new heights when it hosted the first-ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. HITS will once again offer the most innovative weekend in show jumping history in 2011 when it hosts the second annual Pfizer Million and the inaugural Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, September 10-11, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

$30,000 Wild Card Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
1 Sweetheart Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, Inc.    Todd Minikus $9,000 0 0 39.461
2 Pirouette Elizabeth Bates    Ainsley Vince $6,600 0 0 41.848
3 IV Ever Brian Gingras Jill Henselwood $3,900 0 0 45.086
4 Udento VDL The Dobbs Group Hillary Dobbs $2,400 0 0 45.410
5 S&L Slingback S&L Farms Darragh Kerins $1,800 0 0 46.728
6 VDL Torlando Torlando Group Callan Solem $1,500 0 0 46.933
7 Artifice Hollow Creek Farm Angel Karolye $1,200 0 0 47.352
8 Mr. Whoopy Simone Coxe Duncan McFarlane $900 0     
9 Chianto Forest Veiw Farm John Pearce $900 0     
10 Chivas Z Little Valley Farms Ashlee Bond $600 4     
11 Urame Oakwood Stables Todd Minikus $600 4     
12 Rothchild Sagamore Farm McLain Ward $600 4     

Photos: Todd Minikus and Candy Tribble & Windsor Show Stables, Inc.'s Sweetheart on their way to a win in Friday's $30,000 Wild Card Qualifier Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Saugerties. © ESI Photography;
Laura Chapot on course with Mary Chapot's Umberto in Wednesday's $5,000 Brook Ledge Open Welcome at HITS Saugerties. © ESI Photography.