May 30, 2011–Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward is on the road to the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix after a big win aboard his own Oh? D Eole in Sunday?s $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to highlight HITS-on-the-Hudson I. Ward, of Brewster, NY, won the inaugural Pfizer Million last year and has his sights set on this year?s event on Sunday, September 11.
?This was a good class,? said Ward, moments after his victory gallop on Sunday afternoon. ?It was difficult enough with a lot of technical questions, but it was intelligent and rode nicely. I think the weather was great and a little on the warm side, which can make a big difference.?
The course for Sunday?s $50,000 Grand Prix was designed by Jose ?Pepe? Gamarra of Ellenton, FL, who made his debut this week at HITS-on-the-Hudson. ?I think the footing in this ring [Strongid? C 2X Grand Prix Stadium] is the best footing I?ve ever seen anywhere,? said Gamarra. ?The horses have improved all week long and the footing has played a big part in that.?
Gamarra accomplished exactly what he planned for the class. ?I expect between six to eight in the jump-off,? he said prior to the start of the class, which eventually saw seven riders return after the first round. ?There were a lot of young horses here so, with that in mind, it was a fair course.?
Ward was the first to return in the jump-off and right away set the Great American Time to Beat at 33.760 seconds, which would go untouched. ?This mare [Oh? D Eole] is still a bit young but she’s been doing really well lately, winning two out of her last three Grand Prix,? said Ward. ?I didn’t want to do anything insane going first in the jump-off, I just wanted to put up a good fast time and I knew she could do that, she’s a very fast horse.?
Fellow U.S. Olympian Peter Leone of Greenwich, CT, aboard Select, owned by Lionshare Farm and Ger Poels, posted a clear effort two trips later in 35.270 seconds, which earned him a second-place finish in the end. Germaine Edelmann of Rexford, NY, was next to show and produced the last clear effort in 41.645 seconds aboard Carotino, owned by Blue River Farm Sales, which earned her third place. The duo got their start together this past winter at HITS Ocala, earning a second-place victory in the Week IV $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, as well as numerous ribbons throughout the circuit.
Ward made it clear that he plans on qualifying once again for the richest jumper class in the world, the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. ?Winning the Pfizer Million last year was very special to me,? said Ward. ?It?ll always be something that will stand out in my career and I’m excited to compete in it again this year. Today was a great day to get started on earning some prize money in order to get qualified.?
Rounding out the top five in the class were Kate Levy aboard her own Starlight in fourth, and Alexa Lowe aboard Windsor Farm Sales? Amicello in fifth. Ward also finished eighth and ninth in Sunday?s class aboard Seth Vallhonrat and Anne Hamilton?s Coco 135 and Blue Chip Bloodstock?s Domino, respectively.
Show jumping will continue this week with HITS-on-the-Hudson II, as High-Performance riders will have two more opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, which will serve as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Friday, June 3. Then on Sunday, June 5 the stakes get even higher with the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
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 www.HitsShows.com. Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!