California Riding Magazine • June, 2010

September Showdown
West Coast riders dominate
Pfizer Million standings.

by Jessica Nemzoff

Come September, United States show jumping history will be rewritten with the inception of the HITS Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. The class will undoubtedly set new standards for the sport throughout the nation, and potentially begin to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between the East and West hunter/jumper show circuits. In the words of Grand Prix rider Harold Chopping, “The Pfizer Million is the kind of class that really brings everyone together at the end of the year, from the West Coast and the East Coast.”

Unprecedented in nature, the Pfizer Million offers a unique qualifying structure that is advantageous to horses and riders. Riders must compete in eight Pfizer Million Grand Prix Qualifiers to be eligible for the Pfizer Million Rider Rankings. Those rankings are then computed based on a rider’s total money won with their leading horse. Come September, the top 40 will then be qualified to compete in the monumental class in Saugerties, NY, on Sept. 12 at the beautiful HITS-on-the-Hudson facility. In addition to the top 40, five more riders will be offered a spot to compete at the discretion of management, while the winner of the Pfizer Million Wild Card Grand Prix on Sat., Sept. 11, which is also an FEI World Cup Qualifier, will also have the opportunity to compete.

Currently, West Coast riders occupy five of the top 10 spots on the Pfizer Million Rankings List, and seven of the top 10 competed at HITS Thermal this past winter. One of those seven, Jill Henselwood, of Canada, is leading the way with a total of $104,100 aboard Bottom Line. Henselwood has competed in 12 Pfizer Million Qualifiers so far this year, and soared to the top of the rankings after emerging victorious in the $300,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the end of this year’s Thermal circuit.

Guy Thomas of California sits behind Henselwood in second aboard his leading horse Peterbilt with a total of $83,950 in prize money after 11 qualifiers. Thomas also had great success in the $300,000 HITS Thermal Grand Prix, finishing second. Thomas hopes that the prize money he won over the winter will hold throughout the summer as the race to the Pfizer Million heats up on the East Coast this summer at HITS Saugerties and HITS Culpeper. “I hope that my prize money holds because I would be thrilled to come back and do the class. I have only ever shown at Harrisburg (Pennsylvania National Horse Show) and Tampa (Winter Equestrian Festival) on the East Coast and I would enjoy the opportunity to not only jump for the $1 Million purse, but to also see and experience a new facility on the East Coast.”

Elaborating on the current divide between East and West, Thomas explained, “It is difficult to find a way to get there, because at the barn I am not only the head rider, but also the head driver and trainer. Splitting up the ‘team’ to go East for any length of time would be very difficult. Everyone has their own circuits they have always followed, but I think that in the future this class could most definitely help bridge the gap between the East and the West. There is only one other class in North America that offers that kind of prize money, and you have to be invited. The Pfizer Million follows a different model, and opens doors for riders to qualify.”

Given the impressive prize money at HITS Thermal, West Coasters had the opportunity to get a top spot on the rankings early on. Many took advantage of not only the $300,000 finale, but also four FEI World Cup Qualifiers that double as Pfizer Million Qualifiers, and a sizeable purse each week of the HITS Thermal Winter Circuit.

Thomas offered his insight on what HITS has to offer exhibitors and spectators alike. “HITS is really great because they are always trying to make it better and better every year and more enticing to exhibitors. Year after year they continue to have personable staff and are always upgrading the facilities.” Additionally, Thomas commended HITS CEO and President Tom Struzzieri, saying, “I think it is great that Tom stepped out to do it on his own. Given what we just saw at the FEI World Cup Finals, it is becoming clear that the FEI can be unjust. I hope that there become more classes like the Pfizer Million that can stand on their own, outside of the box. Because although our sport is doing very well, there are certain aspects that need to be addressed in terms of the governing bodies.”

Current Pfizer Million Standings

Place
Eligible Riders*
Leading Horse
Prize Money
Number of Qualifiers Competed
1
Jill Henselwood Bottom Line
$104,100
12
2
Guy Thomas Peterbilt
$83,950
11
3
Tracy Fenney MTM Timon
$70,750
12
4
Keri Potter Rockford I
$53,150
8
5
Tracy Magness Tarco Van Ter Moude
$45,500
15
6
Susan Hutchison Cantano
$43,500
9
7
Helen McNaught Caballo
$43,000
12
8
Callan Solem Allison
$42,500
11
9
John Anderson Terrific
$40,00
12
10
John Pearce Chianto
$39,950
11
11
Karen Cudmore Southern Pride
$30,000
10
12
Andre Thieme Aragon Rouet
$29,250
9
13
Gabrielle Cousin Aramisse des Pins
$24,000
10
14
David Jennings Marcus Aurelius
$22,500
10
15
Joie Gatlin Camaron Hills Quick Dollar
$21,900
9
16
Hugh Graham Executive Privilege 3E
$19,500
9
17
Megan Edrick Cadence
$17,500
10
18
Matthais Hollberg Full A's
$16,000
9
19
Sarah Ballou Shanondale Truman
$15,000
9
20
Kirk Webby Hennessey
$14,500
9
Saer Coulter Chalan
$14,500
9
22
Michelle Spadone Coco
$13,150
11
23
Peter Lutz Turbo R
$12,500
8
24
Kristen VanDerveen Bull Run's Alpha & Omega
$12,250
8
25
Aaron Vale Paparazzi
$12,000
9
26
Jose-Alberto Martinez Leonard
$11,600
8
27
Laura Linback As Di Villagana
$10,500
11
Paris Sellon Charmeur A CH
$10,500
8
29
Derek Petersen Eli
$10,250
10
30
Jeff Campf London
$9,750
9
Taylor McMurtry Just An Illusion
$9,750
9
32
Duncan McFarlane Lariccello
$7,600
10
33
Jenn Serek Eleonora
$6,750
8
34
Stephanie Sapersein El Sueno's Quanto VL
$5,600
8
35
Libby McKinney Gun Du Desfi
$4,500
8
Lisa Carlsen La Boom
$4,500
9
37
Gavin Moylan Icon
$4,450
13
38
Lauren Hester Cracky Z
$2,200
9
Marshall Whyte Quinlan
$2,200
11
40
Michael Kirby Kt Undercover
$1,700
10