by Lindsay Yandon
After its announcement in 2009, the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York soon became a stop on the road to equestrian stardom. For HITS, the buck didn’t stop there. Based on the success of the Pfizer Million on the East Coast, HITS Horse Shows looked west and joined forces with West Coast show organizers Dale Harvey, Larry Langer and Robert Ridland to form the Thermal Million Grand Prix League, which will culminate with a $1 million Grand Prix at the conclusion of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.
Fifteen West Coast competitions will comprise the all-new high-performance show jumping league and welcome the best of the best on the West Coast to vie for a piece of $1 million. The League will include the entire 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, as well as select weeks of the Blenheim Summer and Fall shows, Sacramento International Horse Show, Del Mar Fall Festival, Los Angeles International Jumping Festival and Los Angeles National Horse Show.
“This is something we’ve been looking to do for a while and the timing is perfect for the West Coast to have a signature show jumping event to call its own,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President & CEO. “This past season in Thermal was a true tipping point. The atmosphere was phenomenal and the contribution from the West Coast in our sport is as strong as it’s ever been.”
Specific qualifying, including nine World Cup weeks will be available at the following participating West Coast horse shows from August to March:
Blenheim Summer Classic II: August 14-19
Showpark Summer Classic: August 22-26
Showpark Summer Tournament: August 29 – September 2
Blenheim Fall Tournament: September 12-16
LA International Jumping Fest: September 19-23
Sacramento International World Cup Week: October 2-7
Del Mar Fall Festival II: October 24-28
National Preview: October 31 – November 4
LA National: November 6-11
The Las Vegas National: November 13-18
2013 HITS Desert Circuit: January – March
With Rich Fellers recent World Cup victory as evidence, West Coast competition is preparing horses and riders alike to excel in global arenas. “Thermal has really become a great platform to push from,” said Canadian Olympian and HITS Thermal regular Jill Henselwood. “Many riders like Rich Fellers are using those shows to propel them to the World Cup and more.”
Modeled after the qualifying procedures of the Pfizer Million, money won in League grand prix will be calculated by individual rider/horse combination with the rider’s top money winning horse determining the rider’s final ranking. Each rider must also compete in at least one grand prix at four HITS Desert Circuit shows prior to the week of the Thermal Million. The top 40 riders in the Thermal Million Grand Prix Rider Rankings will qualify. In addition, five additional riders may be chosen as Manager Picks. Two Wild Card slots will be awarded – one to the winner of a Wild Card Grand Prix during the 2013 Desert Circuit and one to the top performing grand prix rider at the six-week HITS Arizona Winter Circuit.
“There is an electricity of excitement happening west of the Mississippi,” added Struzzieri. “This League and second $1 million Grand Prix will present yet another product that should ignite a spark in American show jumping.”
Ridland’s recent appointment to U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe gave equestrians in West Coast circles yet another reason to celebrate. Seeing the potential for growth in the sport both on the West Coast and beyond, Ridland sees nothing but positives in this new collaboration.
“No question, this should be a big boost for the sport on the West Coast and nationwide as well,” said Ridland.
As Spring and Summer show jumping gets underway, the Thermal Million Grand Prix League should soon climb to the top of “to-do” lists for high-performance riders across North America. A breath of fresh air for show jumping, the League hopes to add another claim to fame for the sport’s top athletes.
Complete specifications and qualifying criteria for the Thermal Million Grand Prix League have been released and are available at HitsShows.com.