Pfizer Million Preview

West coast riders come east for Pfizer Million Weekend; HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
As the summer show season nears its end, the excitement and anticipation for this year’s Pfizer Million Weekend is gaining momentum. Exhibitors are clamoring to get their qualifying classes in and add to their winnings to ensure their place in the Rider Rankings for both the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final. After the Desert Circuit it was clear that riders from the west coast were serious about ensuring they’d make the cut for these two monumental events. And with the grand finale weekend just about a month away, west coast riders are making their plans to come east for their chance at show jumping history – the opportunity to compete for $1.5 million in prize money!

The group of High-Performance riders coming east includes a mix of both returning and first time qualifiers with John Pearce, Helen McNaught, Duncan McFarlane, and Saer Coulter, while young phenom Lucy Davis, who took the Desert Circuit by storm when she won the last four Grand Prix at the Thermal including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach, is making her first trip to Saugerties.

The crop of Hunter riders making their plans to show in Saugerties is equally as impressive with top professional riders John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness and Jenny Karazissis each committed to show in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final. Amateur riders Erin Bland and Avery Hellman, who both train with Ned and Hope Glynn, will also be on the scene, as will Archie Cox with a group of his students.

“I am very excited to be coming to compete in the [Diamond Mills] $500,000 Hunter Prix,” said Cox. “Cruise, owned by Jessica Singer, has already proven himself from coast to coast and I am anxious to add a top placing to his resume.”

Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida will set the courses for the Hunter Prix and Olympic Course Designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Florida will set the track for the Pfizer Million. Olympic Course Decorator Flora Baptiston of Brazil will bring her magic touch to the courses.

There’s quite a buzz about the weekend throughout both the equestrian and local communities, as VIP tables are selling quickly and ticket sales for Motown legends The Temptations are picking up momentum. Adding to the ceremony of the day will be an appearance by the West Point Equestrian Team and a special 9/11 commemoration ceremony with members from the local fire, police and emergency service workers. Plans are also in the works for a special head-set rental program for round-by-round commentary for both the Hunter Prix and the Pfizer Million.

More exciting news pertaining to live-webcasting and TV coverage along with other plans will be announced soon, so stay tuned. For more information about VIP or general ticket information, please visit

HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
For the second time in two years, HITS put in a bid to host a USEF selection trial competition at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. In the summer of 2009, HITS bid to host the USEF Show Jumping Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). The proposal included unprecedented prize money, $775,000 to be exact, and a commitment to waive the entry fees for all Selection Trials classes for horses competing in every leg of the Trials. This time around, HITS submitted another extraordinary bid proposal to host the USEF Selection Trials for the 2012 Olympic Games and National Championship.

The highlights from the Olympic Trials bid included $200,000 in prize money to be divided among the winners, waived entry fees and complementary accommodations for all exhibitors participating in the trials. News came in early August that the selection committees had met and voted to award the bid to another management company, despite the innovative package prepared by HITS.

When news of the decision came, HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri offered his insights on the vote. “If there’s a bright side to this, we’ve got our bid packet fine tuned! Perhaps more importantly, these Trials will not take place during the Thermal Circuit, so customers can enjoy their regular circuit schedule with us in the Desert and still have the opportunity to travel for the chance to compete on the Olympic Team in Florida at the end of March.”

Struzzieri was pleased to have the opportunity to submit a bid and was pragmatic about the outcome. “I can’t say that I disagree with the decision of the committees, geography has to play a big role in this type of decision. We will continue to stay in this process and hopefully we will be awarded this type of event in the near future.”

In the end, Struzzieri believes, “Our bid had an impact in raising the stakes for the competition. As it turned out the other bid was modified to match what we had offered and include free entries for the riders, so that’s another positive outcome for the exhibitors. Having just completed hosting the East Coast Junior Hunter Finals here in Saugerties, I feel strongly that HITS has a product to offer that will ultimately be the right one for trials of this nature and we’ll keep going after it… for us, our customers and the sport.”

Photos by Flying Horse Photography.

Highlights From 2011 HITS Desert Circuit

By Selena Frederick and Jackie McFarland

In what seemed a newfound rhythm for the HITS Desert Circuit, the winter circuit sailed relatively smoothly for six straight weeks. With increased entries and a positive response from many of the competitors we approached, we asked what was the formula for success this year? Challenging course designers, well maintained footing, improvements and additions to the VIP areas, big money classes, and of course the grand prix highlights from fantastic afternoons to fabulous evening events.

Beautiful sunsets and cool breezes welcomed the four World Cup Qualifiers in the intimate indoor arena. Actually for a majority of the six weeks the California desert weather was pretty perfect. To top it off, during the final week the facility sparkled with Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and even a pristine private jet parked on site.

John French and Chawi de Laubry

The west coast circuit drew a slew of legendary grand prix riders from near and far, including Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Hap Hansen, Eduardo Menezes, John Pearce, Rich Fellers, Jill Henselwood, Charlie Jayne, John French, Susan Hutchison, John Perez, Gabriella Salick, Kate Levy…

And that is just a short list. Stars of the circuit Rich Fellers and Lucy Davis each earned four grand prix wins, simply amazing. These two athletes and their horse mates, mind you they each won on different mounts, were fast, clean and cool as ice.

The hunter rings were bustling as well. West coast greats such as John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness, Chance Arakelian, Jenny Karazissis and John Bragg were vying for the various championships and derby wins. The ever-versatile John French, who won his usual lion’s share in this arena, also suited up for several outdoor grand prix events. French was seen ‘speaking’ both hunter and jumper on the same day, literally running from the jump off to the hunter derby, garnering top ribbons if not wins in both places. The calm, cool and collected French commented, “It’s an adrenaline rush with the jumpers and everything is so fast; I’m not used to being so hyper.”

Hansen and Michaels-Beerbaum
discuss the course

Quite a few competitors, sponsors and spectators noted the family-friendly aspect of the area. Lamborghini of Newport Beach’s Director Donny Gath brought his entire family. As is often seen when outside sponsorship comes on board, Gath’s company became a sponsor after his 9-year-old daughter Kendal started competing at HITS two years ago, so it is both business and pleasure. Grand prix princess and high-school senior Lucy Davis mentioned that her family can easily come out from Los Angeles and watch her compete as well as enjoy the desert treasures. “My dad can golf in the morning, and then come and watch me ride in the evenings.” Internationally acclaimed rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, also Davis’ trainer, expressed how nice it was for her to spend time in a family friendly environment. She explained, “In Europe the cold indoor circuits typically have late class times making it not very baby or family friendly. It’s also good to be back in California, and see people I haven’t seen in years.” Baby Brianna Beerbaum celebrated her first birthday in California with Mom (Meredith) and mount Lancaster winning the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. Great day to celebrate.

Of course there were ups and downs. One particular grand prix Sunday took its toll on some top riders. Beginning the circuit with wins, Canadian John Pearce, as well as riding legend Hap Hansen, and the daring John Perez all took a spill at the same fence (#7). Unfortunately Pearce went on the injured list for the remainder of the circuit, whereas Hansen and Perez were able to walk away.

The close to the circuit $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert was nothing short of poetic. After 53 riders attempted Olaf Peterson’s technical and big and wide course of jumps, five riders remained in the running for the $200,000 in prize money. The 90-degree southern California sun apparently didn’t faze the riders or the Sunday afternoon crowd. Cheers were rampant at the end of Lucy Davis and Nemo 119’s clear

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119

jump off round, on a streak after winning three grand prix events in a row, as she crossed the timers in the lead.

The class was far from over with two riders left. next in the ring was speed demon Rich Fellers, aboard the amazing Flexible. And following that pair was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard the talented Kismet 50. The crowd gasped in disbelief as Rich and Flexible took the inside turn to the wide oxer heading down the last line and a rail fell. When the final pair of Beerbaum and Kismet 50 heading towards the first tall pink and white vertical – down went the top rail and Davis had clinched the win. It was a day to remember for competitor and spectator alike.

As Davis said in her interview with HITS after her victory, “I could never believe this in a million years. I was so happy to just win one Grand Prix and I kept thinking that there was no way that this could ever happen. Some of the best riders in the world were competing here today and to come out on top is just surreal.” (Read more in the HITS press release)

International riders, sizeable prize money, classy cars, big jumps, fans galore and increased attendance makes for sporty splendor indeed. Congratulations to all and good luck at HITS Saugerties in their fall finales for both hunters and jumpers.

Photos by Cheval Photos

Highlights LEG Summer Show Circuits

Welcome to the e-news covering seven weeks of fabulous horse shows in two phenomenal locations – The Horse Park at Woodside situated on the border of Menlo Park and Woodside in northern California and the Colorado Horse Park in Parker nested between Denver and Castle Rock in Colorado.

Three weeks in June and early July for Woodside included the inaugural Bayfest Under Saddle Derby and a first time Grand Prix win for amateur rider Jessica Sullivan. Four weeks in Parker boasted a $5,000 Hunter Classic and a $10,000 Chronicle of the Horse Hunter Derby, plus a run for the $100,000 Grand Prix Rider Bonus if one rider wins all three Colorado Grand Prix events.

Woodside Summer Circuit
The 2009 Woodside Summer Circuit featured exciting jump offs, lovely hunter rounds, and some stylish equitation riders. Jumpers battled it out, and while it looked like Helen McNaught was invincible with her fleet of talented horses, she had to share the limelight. McNaught started off as queen of the jumper ring when she won both the $1,000 Welcome Stake and the $10,000 Woodside Jumper Classic on Ocean Cat (Doug & Julie White, owners). However, she had to give up her throne the second week when Duncan McFarlane edged her out of the win in the $20,000 Bayfest Grand Prix aboard Mr. Whoopy (Simone Coxe, owner). The third week it was an amateur rider who reigned supreme when Jessica Sullivan piloted her Classic Europa to victory in the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix.

McNaught is fairly new to Northern California, but she has settled in nicely. “This area reminds me of home (England) and the weather is great. Woodside is quiet and filled with horse people, and I love the area shops. I’ve wanted to come up here for years and there is more competition than I expected. The Horse Park (at Woodside) is lovely and the big fields give you lots of riding area. What is there not to like?”

Sullivan was equally excited about her trip north. “This is my first time showing in Northern California and everyone is so nice. I train with Santiago Rickard at home, but I have been friends with Patrick Seaton for a long time so I decided to bring my four horses north and work with him.” Sullivan and Seaton found that they could be friends and work together, successfully it seems!

Having Fun on the Circuit 
In addition to keen competition, Show Manager Chris Collman wanted to have some fun activities during the three weeks. The Stick Horse Parade was the hands down favorite. Throughout the week, exhibitors stopped by the horse show office to pick up a stick horse with instructions to decorate it in their own unique way. When Saturday afternoon rolled around, forty kids showed up at the grand prix ring to parade around before the big class. Creativity abounded, and while all the kids got great gift bags, it was Avery Glynn (Ned and Hope Glynn, trainers…and parents) who was named the overall champion. Dressed as a beautiful princess in pink, Avery paraded a pink fairy pony complete with pink bell boots, a pink bonnet, and lots of ribbons and streamers.

$125,000 in Bonus Money Up For Grabs
Topping the field repeatedly can pay off big for high performance riders on the Summer Circuits in both Woodside and Colorado.

In Woodside, if a rider can win all three of grand prix events, they take home the Woodside Jumper Accumulator. There was $25,000 in the 2009 Accumulator Fund and when it goes unclaimed another $5,000 is added. In 2008 Patrick Seaton won two of the three classes, earning an extra $5,000.

In Colorado, the $100,000 Rider Bonus is up for grabs for the person who can win all three grand prix events – the $25,000 High Prairie Grand Prix, the $40,000 Rocky Mountain Grand Prix, and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Denver – on the same horse. Several years ago Bjorn Ikast won two of the classes and took home a $25,000 check.

The potential for a big pay off remains and entices top riders to compete on the summer circuits year after year.

Cool Colorado
Horses and riders from more than twenty states and Canadian provinces converge on Parker to attend the Colorado Summer Circuit. The big classes had a true international flavor with Bjorn Ikast (Denmark) capturing the $25,000 High Prairie Grand Prix on Braveheart; Canadian John Pearce aboard Son of a Gun (Forest View Farm, owner) leading the victory gallop in the $40,000 Rocky Mountain Grand Prix and to wrap it up, Eduardo Menezes of Mexico rode Don Guido Mercedes Benz to the win in the $50,000 Grand Prix of Denver. With the wins split among these three top riders, the $100,000 bonus went unclaimed.

Hunters Take the Stage
Hunters enjoyed their share of the limelight during the Colorado Summer Circuit.

Colleen Acosta earned a big win in the $10,000 USHJA Hunter Derby aboard Posse (Chris Guthrie, owner). Usually the handsome bay horse competes in the Adult Amateur Hunters, but to prepare for the Derby Acosta rode him in the Modified Hunters and a low jumper class.

Summer Means Family
Competing in Colorado means family fun during the summer months. Page and Sarah Tredennick share a love of horses and riding, as do Suellen and Clare Walker.

Triple or quadruple the fun when the entire family gets involved, like with the Quagliano’s of Edwards, Colorado.

Highlights From HITS Thermal February 2008

Mid-Circuit Recap

Starting off with a bang, Grand Prix rider Richard Spooner, the Desert Circuit’s all-time leading money winner, had two back-to-back wins, first on Gerry the Grey and then on Ezrah. The win on Ezrah was his 100th – only one other rider has achieved that number. Impressive!

Speaking of impressive, the EquiBase™ Arena Systems new covered ring, which is home to all four $50,000 Tourneau FEI World Cup Qualifiers presented by Adequan, has proven to be a great venue for horse, rider and spectator. The atmosphere is intimate, the footing fabulous and the courses challenging. Topping two exciting jump-offs, Rich Fellers and Flexible took the blues in both FEI classes. He now sits comfortably in the top 5 for the West Coast World Cup standings.

Here’s a list of the other 2008 HITS Desert Circuit Grand Prix winners:

• $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix, January 30th: Mark Watring/Sapphire

• $125,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by EMO, February 3rd: Joie Gatlin/Camaron Hills Shanroe

• $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix, February 7th: Kim Farlinger/Cordoba

• $50,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix, February 10th: John Pearce/Archie Bunker

With $375,000 of the $925,000 total Grand Prix prize money awarded, every Grand Prix at the Desert Circuit is a qualifier for the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix on Sunday, March 16. The top 30 pairs will be invited to compete.

The Grand Prix ring hosted the hunters during the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions/ USHJA International Hunter Style Derby Classic Week III. Truly an exciting event to watch, riders have a chance to earn points in the handy hunter section by taking tight turns, jumping natural obstacles and maintaining a hunt-course gallop. Jenny Karazissis and Swoon out performed 26 other exhibitors to take home the blue for owners El Campeon Farms.

Kids Day at HITS Thermal
Photo © Flying Horse Photography

HITS Desert Circuit Salutes Its First Half Heroes 

Tara Spencer has dominated the pony ring at the HITS Desert Circuit. Just 11 years old, Spencer earned 24 blue ribbons and 19 red ribbons during the first half of the circuit. Impressive accolades include two Mid-Circuit Championships aboard Brookway Stables’ Tuscany in the Medium Pony Hunter Division and Keep Dreamin’ in the Large Pony Hunter Division. She was also named the Best Child Rider in the Pony division for all three weeks. Spencer is now off to HITS Ocala and will be riding for Don Stewart.

Also shining at HITS Desert Circuit is top hunter rider John French, who was named Mid-Circuit Champion on his mount Obelix in the Adequan Hunter Division. And his client Alison Baileys, riding her fabulous Tache Rouge, was High Point Mid-Circuit A/O Hunter 18-35, earning the Jennifer Marlborough Freeman Memorial Trophy.

The Pink Ladies at the Equine Idol Contest
Photo © Flying Horse Photography

More than a Horse Show – Fun in the Sun at HITS Desert Circuit

The special events calendar is in full swing. Entertaining events to date include a dog costume contest, the ever-popular Kids Day and a hilarious Equine Idol competition judged by Huntover Farm’s Mark Bone, Showbiz Magazine’s Kathy Hobstetter and Waldenbrook’s John French.

The second half features more out-of-ring festivities, including a fashion show, presented by Horse Connection Magazine, an exhibitor golf tournament at Indian Palms and the annual WCAR Fundraising Party at the Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells.

Highlights From HITS Grand Prix February 7, 2008

Class: $125,000 HITS Grand Prix,
presented by EMO.
Conditions: Windy, very windy.
Community: Pulled together during chaos.

Sunday morning came along blissfully and the second week of HITS Thermal was coming to a close. The $125,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by EMO, commenced at noon and as horses negotiated the Leopoldo Palacios course, the winds kicked up. Initially it was little gusts but as the class continued the wind increased. It huffed and puffed and blew the jumps down, it blew the VIP Oasis Club tables and chairs down, it blew the hunter ring fences to the ground.

It became clear that the horse show could not go on and what happened next was commendable – Grand Prix riders, VIP guests, HITS staff all teamed up to create a safer atmosphere in a matter of minutes. As the wind blew harder, the collective group removed trays and tablecloths, laid down the tables and chairs, and carefully stored the ceramic pots and glass signs.

Competitors and management waited through wind (and the Super Bowl) and the class continued in the late afternoon to an exciting finish. Joie Gatlin secured $37,500 in prize money for Camaron Hills Farm when she rode Camaron Hills Shanroe to the win. During the 2005 HITS Desert Circuit, Gatlin won the blue ribbon in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix. “I love to win the EMO class,” said Gatlin. “They are a great supporter of our sport and I am very appreciative of everything that they do.” Gatlin was sitting in the enviable last-to-ride spot in a jump-off that featured eight pairs. The pair had a fast time to beat, raced to stop the clock in 40.947 to win the class by just over half a second. Camaron Hills Shanroe is 13 and Gatlin had the ride in place of rider Molly Talla who is expecting her second child.

Jill Humphrey started the jump-off of eight on Rudy Leone’s Kaskaya. The pair negotiated a clear round and set the time to beat at 46.330. Canadian Olympian John Pearce was next to go in the jump-off aboard Allison Moore’s Chianto. They had four faults and finished in sixth place. Third to go was Ashlee Bond and her mount Tommy Gun. The pair went clear in a very fast 41.588 to take over the top spot. “I thought I was very fast but knew I had some big competition behind me,” said Bond. “Richard Spooner had already beaten my time but had a rail down, so I knew my time was reachable.”

Sure enough, Bond and her horse finished third. Fourth to go was the HITS Desert Circuit’s all-time leading money winner Richard Spooner and Cristallo. One rail down would land them in fifth place. Recent Pan Am Games Gold Medal Winner, Jill Henselwood was next aboard Callisto. Henselwood and her mount would be eliminated and finish in eighth place.

Pearce was back in the irons aboard his second ride of the jump-off. This time it was Archie Bunker and they pushed Bond and Tommy Gun off the top with a fast and clean ride in 41.582. Pearce and Archie Bunker eventually finished in second place. “Two horses in the top six is a fair chunk of change,” said a happy Pearce after the class. “The vibe is good and the people seem very happy this year.”

Pearce also has his eyes on Friday night’s $50,000 Tourneau FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan where he plans to show Archie Bunker and his top gun Urioso. His fellow countryman, Henselwood, was back for her second trip of the jump-off aboard Black Ice. The pair had two rails down and finished in seventh place.

Finally, it was Gatlin and Camaron Hills Shanroe’s turn. They were lightning-fast and stopped the clocks in 40.947 to win the class. “John Pearce set a fast pace,” said Gatlin. “We were slow to the first jump and then I said to her, ‘Come on. Let’s go!’ We were very fast from two to nine and we kept cruising through 10. Once we cleared 12B I heard the crowd getting behind me so I knew we had a good chance to win.”