Saugerties, NY (July 25, 2012) - As summer horse shows get underway and HITS Championship Weekend nears, riders of both hunter and jumper disciplines have one thing on their mind – qualifying. Between both summer circuits in Saugerties, New York and Culpeper, Virginia, less than two months of qualifying remain before the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final and HITS $250,000 Hunter Prix Final make show jumping history at HITS-on-the-Hudson September 7-9, 2012.
After 21 weeks of winter horse shows across the nation and four weeks of spring shows on the East Coast, the Preliminary Rider Rankings for all three year-end finales are beginning to take shape. Here’s a look at who’s on their way to HITS Championship Weekend:
Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix
As riders from all corners of the world ride towards the Pfizer Million, one woman commanded an early lead in the top 40 rankings. Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas collected 15 Grand Prix classes during the qualifying period and rode to victory seven times during the winter circuit in Ocala, Florida. She and her leading horse MTM Centano, owned by MTM Farm, have raked in an impressive $84,500 to assert a dominant lead.
Joining Fenney in the top five, Patty Stovel of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania sits fifth with her own Carigor Z. Fellow East Coast riders and Pfizer Million veterans, Aaron Vale of Morriston, Florida and Derek Petersen of Archer, Florida crept into the top 20 during HITS Ocala with 16 Grand Prix rides apiece.
From the West Coast, Francie Steinwedell-Carvin of La Canada, California set her sights firmly on the Pfizer Million after a win in the $53,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix CSI2*W, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal. She and Prentiss Partners’ Taunus lead the West Coast with $60,955 in prize money. No stranger to Pfizer Million glory, Duncan McFarlane of San Ramone, California also picked up his necessary eight Grand Prix at HITS Thermal and hopes to return in 2012 with Simone Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy. After finishing second last year, the duo currently sits 8th in the rankings and can’t wait to take another shot at the blue ribbon.
“Once the class is over, I suffer from ‘Pfizer Million blues’ and can’t wait to get back to Saugerties and be able to jump that caliber course again,” said McFarlane of his two Pfizer Million experiences.
Canadian Olympic team member Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ontario and Helen McNaught of San Ramon, California dominated the early competition at HITS Thermal and are both qualified and eager for September to arrive. Henselwood and McNaught currently sit 9th and 11th in the rankings.
Tracy Fenney and her leading mount, MTM Centano on their way to the top during the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit in Ocala, Florida.
To view the complete Top 40 Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix Preliminary Rider Rankings, click here.
Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final
The top ten riders in the Diamond Mills Preliminary Rider Rankings are qualified with five or more Devoucoux Hunter Prix classes behind them and are chomping at the bit for the second annual $500,000 Hunter Prix Final. Leading the way is Mary Lisa Leffler of Brookeville, Maryland. She and Rolling Acres’ Gerona 92 boast three wins during the 2012 qualifying period and lead California’s Joie Gatlin by 118 points. Last year’s second place rider, Nick Haness of San Clemente, California rounds out the top three qualified riders.
“Last year was amazing. I am so thankful to have some great clients who have great horses for me to ride,” he said of his current leading mount Carolyn Miler’s Cristiano. “This year, I hope to do everyone proud in Saugerties, again.”
After a pivotal win in last week’s Devoucoux Hunter Prix, Ellen Toon of South Salem, New York picked up her final qualifier and jumped nine spots to sit fifth with her own Invincible. Jimmy Torano of SW Ranches, Florida is currently in the top 20, but with only two qualifying classes banked, he is back in Saugerties this summer to stamp his ticket for HITS Championship Weekend.
Lyn Pederson, owner of last year’s Hunter Prix Final winner Mahalo, piloted by Samantha Schaefer, is back with Guess Again. Currently the leading mount for Laena Romond of Colchester, Vermont, Pederson’s Guess Again will need one more qualifier to seal the deal.
Thanks to a successful winter season and a few early wins this spring, Mary Lisa Leffler and Rolling Acres’ Gerona 92 lead the way to the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final.
To view the complete Top 50 Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final Preliminary Rider Rankings, click here.
HITS $250,000 Hunter Prix Final
Last year, HITS announced its $250,000 Hunter Prix Final, which is set to join HITS Championship weekend in 2012, and the class drew immediate attention from amateur and junior riders. The Top 50 Preliminary Rider Rankings are coming together with Jodi Czaplick of Morriston, Florida at the helm. She and her own Untold were in the ribbons in all eight Devoucoux Hunter Prix qualifiers during HITS Ocala and have racked up 372 points to sit 96 points ahead of Kimberly Maloomian of Needham, Massachusetts.
Capping the top three is Caroline Sykes of Garrison, New York with nine qualifiers banked in the irons of Violet Fludzinski’s Aston Martin. Sykes was thrilled with the announcement of the class and believes it is just what the hunter discipline needed.
“The 3’ classes will teach amateur and juniors how to ride courses like this and give them a taste of bigger derbies – it is a great first step to bigger things,” she said. “This class is a real return on investment for a lot of people and I believe that it will keep many of them in the sport.”
After two wins during the spring season at HITS Saugerties and another just last week, Kathryn Haefner of Hamburg, New York is pointing her own Bentley at the inaugural Hunter Prix Final. The pair is currently fourth in the rankings and will look to this weekend for their final qualifier to seal their fate for September.
As evident by Emily Winkler of Long Beach, California and Karin Binz, of Lomita, California, $250,000 is worth a cross-country trip. Over the winter, both riders picked up their necessary qualifiers at HITS Thermal over the winter and are primed for HITS Championship Weekend.
Jodi Czaplick and Untold had a banner season in Ocala, Florida over the winter, placing in the ribbons in all eight Devoucoux hunter Prix Qualifiers.
To view the complete Top 50 HITS $250,000 Hunter Prix Final Preliminary Rider Rankings, click here.
Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal Final & National PHA Medal Final
One other exciting addition to this year’s HITS Championship Weekend is the inclusion of two popular equitation finals – the Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal Final and the National PHA Medal Final. For the first time ever, HITS is bringing these two prestigious classes together with its three big-money events to create an all-encompassing finale weekend. Both medal finals will take place indoors within a tent similar to the one HITS uses in Thermal for the FEI World Cup Qualifiers.
Danielle Moraski of New Hampton, NY holds the lead in the Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal Standings with 92.50 points, followed by Chelsea Buttermore of Flemington, NJ in second place with 89.50 points and Vanessa McCarthy of Sea Grit, NJ in third with 75.00 points. To view the complete Junior Medal Standings, click here.
Alexandra Maracic of Woodbury, NY holds the lead in the National PHA Medal Standings with 82 points, followed by Kate Bundy of Westport, CT in second with 68 points and Blaine Ferraro of Islip, NY in third with 66 points. To view the complete National PHA Medal Standings, please click here.
Qualifying continues for all three big-money events through Week VII of HITS Saugerties (August 29 – September 2) as hunter and jumper riders of varying levels compete for a spot at HITS Championship Weekend and hope to be crowned one of three new champions. Grand prix riders have 10 remaining qualifying opportunities from now until September 2 in Saugerties and Culpeper, plus the $30,000 Pfizer Million Wild Card Grand Prix on Friday, September 7 at HITS-on-the-Hudson. Hunter riders still have six more Devoucoux Hunter Prix and six more HITS 3’ Hunter Prix on the schedule to qualify for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final and the first-ever HITS $250,000 Hunter Prix Final, respectively.
Qualifying for the Marshall & Sterling Junior Medal Final continues until August 26, while the National PHA Medal qualifying period comes to end on August 15.