The fine tuning of an official rider’s list for the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, was completed during last night’s rider meeting at HITS Desert Horse Park. With the touch-down of the East Coast manger’s picks in California, the final order of go was drawn and revealed that Candice King of Wellington, Florida will clip the hypothetical ribbon of the first-ever West Coast $1 million grand prix aboard Campbell VDL.
Fellow East Coast invites include Kirsten Coe and Calypso in the second spot, Margie Engle on Royce third, Jimmy Torano fourth with Walk About, McLain Ward on Antares F in sixth and Peter Wylde in the seventh position aboard Sandor de la Pomme. Justin Resnik of Glendale, California will ride the West Coast invitation fifth. In total, forty-three horse-and-rider combinations will take to Sunday’s $1 million course, designed by two-time Olympic medalist Conrad Homfeld. “This will be an important class for the riders and the owners. My goal is to make it safe and also an exciting competition. My hope is that everyone who rides the course comes out feeling like it was a fair and appropriate test,” Homfeld said.
Click here to view a complete rider list, which will also serve as Sunday’s order of go.
Both prize money and the allure of a championship-caliber field and course begged riders and horses alike to cross many borders for a chance at $1 million. Ward, hailing from Brewster, New York, has already pocketed two $1 million grand prix victories in Saugerties, New York and was sure to not miss out on his chance at a hat trick. “To jump a clear round over these courses is no easy task, but it’s raising the national standard of show jumping in the United States and that’s a positive thing,” said Ward whose mount, the 13-year-old grey gelding Antares F, carried him to the top in the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix last September at HITS-on-the-Hudson.
Qualifying for the AIG Thermal Million commenced last August at participating AIG Thermal Grand Prix League competitions. Taking an early lead in the preliminary money-won standings, Californian Rusty Stewart and Bristol rode to a win in the $54,500 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix CSI-W2*, presented by Zoetis, during the second week of the HITS Desert Circuit to remain at the top. They will start last according to reverse-order specifications.
From the West Coast, USEF Equestrian of the Year and FEI World Cup Champions Rich Fellers of Oregon will sit on recently named USEF Horse of the Year Flexible for Sunday’s event. California’s amateur Tiffany Sullivan will go head to head with some of the world’s top professional riders, after winning the $54,500 Purina Animal Nutrition CSI-W2* Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, earlier this winter. “It’s very intimidating,” she said in reference to Sunday’s rider list. “But I am so excited to be a part of this. Riding against the best only makes you better.” Sullivan will pilot Tristan, a 13-year-old chestnut gelding. “He is amazing and has let me into his winner circle lately. He definitely has what it takes to be successful on Sunday and I’m just going to hang on,” she added.
While Sunday’s order welcomes equestrian talent from coast to coast, a cast of international riders will also take to the Grand Prix Field at HITS Dessert Horse Park. Elisabeth Gingras, Kara Chad, Tamie Phillips, Lisa Carlsen, Jenn Serek, Jill Henselwood and John Pearce will represent a strong contingent of Canadian talent.
From points south, Simon Niziri, John Perez and Enrique Gonzalez will ride for Mexico, and Josephina Nor Lantzman will join Enrique Gonzalez, who has seen success after success in the Grand Prix Field this season at HITS Thermal, to represent Brazil. Resnik, Max Dolger and Helen McNaught will ride under the colors of Great Britain and after seeing his fair share of in-the-money finishes in the FEI World Cup qualifying classes at HITS Thermal this season, Nayel Nassar will ride for Egypt. Mei Mei Zhu will represent China, while Lane Clarke and Harley Brown will ride for Australia and Duncan McFarlane will don the colors of his native New Zealand. Coming off two wins at HITS Thermal, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum will go in the 41st spot. A complete list of represented countries is available with the rider list.
With one spot in the AIG Thermal Million still open, Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Wildcard Grand Prix will grant one berth into the richest class in the world to the winner, if not already qualified. The AIG Thermal Million will take the stage at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California Sunday at 2 p.m. and will be available worldwide via a live webcast, presented in cooperation with iEquine.com and A Good Show. Visit HitsShows.com and Facebook.com/HitsShows for the links and more information about one of the three richest classes in show jumping.
Source: Press release from the HITS Media Team
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