Building off the momentum of a very successful winter show season, HITS has created an all-new high-performance show jumping league comprised of 15 West Coast competitions. The league will include the entire 2013 HITS Desert Circuit and will culminate with a $1 Million Grand Prix in March.
Starting in August, HITS will collaborate with West Coast show organizers Dale Harvey, Larry Langer and Robert Ridland to form the Thermal Million Grand Prix League. This newly formed league will offer an unprecedented opportunity to qualify for the all-new Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, which will be held the final week of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal.
"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," says 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, as evidenced by Rich Feller's recent World Cup victory and Robert's [Ridland] appointment as the USET show jumping chef d'equipe. There is an electricity of excitement happening west of the Mississippi and by collaborating with Dale, Larry and Robert we have yet another product that should ignite a spark in American show jumping."
Modeled after HITS' Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, NY, the Thermal Million will allow riders to accrue prize money won at the following participating horse shows from August to March:
• Blenheim Summer Classic II: Aug. 14-19
• Showpark Summer Classic: Aug. 22-26
• Showpark Summer Tournament: Aug. 29-Sept. 2
• Blenheim Fall Tournament: Sept. 12-16
• LA International Jumping Fest: Sept. 19-23
• Sacramento Int'l – WC Week: Oct. 2-7
• Del Mar Fall Festival II: Oct. 24-28
• LA National: Nov. 6-11
• The Las Vegas National: Nov. 13-18
• 2013 HITS Desert Circuit: January-March
Riders will qualify for the Thermal Million based on prize money won in Grand Prix at the participating shows and must compete in at least one Grand Prix at four HITS Desert Circuit shows prior to the week of the Thermal Million. Money won will be calculated by rider/horse combination with the rider's top money winning horse determining the rider's final ranking. The top 40 riders in the Thermal Million Grand Prix Rider Rankings will qualify. In addition, the League will have the option to choose five additional riders as Manager Picks. One Wild Card slot will be awarded to the winner of a Wild Card Grand Prix, which will be held during the 2013 Desert Circuit and the top performing Grand Prix rider at the six-week HITS Arizona Winter Circuit will also qualify.
Like the Pfizer Million, prize money and ribbons will be awarded to the top 20 finishers with first place receiving a check for $350,000.
"No question, this should be a big boost for the sport in the West Coast and nationwide as well," says Ridland.
According to Struzzieri the schedule of participating shows was carefully selected to ensure relevance to the Thermal Million and includes nine FEI World Cup weeks, including three at Thermal, which should help to infuse some additional excitement in both the World Cup qualifiers and the new Thermal Million Grand Prix League. HITS will host three FEI World Cup qualifiers during weeks II, III, and IV of the 2013 Desert Circuit.
After spending this past winter in Thermal to prepare, Rich Fellers and Flexible, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, stormed to victory in an exciting third round jump-off at the Rolex FEI World Cup Finals in The Netherlands. Fellers is the first American to win the prestigious title since 1987 and credits his time in Thermal as extraordinary boost to his preparations.
"I didn't realize I could get that excited about a win, but it was really an incredible moment. My time in Thermal this year was dual purpose as far as Flexible was concerned. We were preparing both for the Olympic trials and the World Cup Finals, so it was doubly important," said Fellers. "The preparation was perfect. I've always believed that there's plenty of great opportunity to prepare horses on the West Coast without having to travel east and the level of show jumping is certainly on par. We just don't have the same numbers yet, but even that's changing."
Fellers went on to say that the news of a million dollar class in Thermal would most certainly further that dynamic. "This is incredible news. I thought I was excited about winning the World Cup Final, but I have to say I'm pretty excited about having a million dollar class in Thermal. It's fantastic for the sport and will be a draw for even more competitors to come west in the winter."
Complete specifications and qualifying criteria for the Thermal Million Grand Prix League will be available soon on the HITS website. The 2013 HITS Desert Circuit will begin Tuesday, January 22. Preparations for the show schedule and prize list have already begun and HITS will be meeting with its Trainer & High Performance Committee to solicit feedback and ideas for the upcoming show season.
For more information about the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, please visit www.HitsShows.com or call 845-246-8833.