With two $1 million grand prix scheduled for 2013, HITS, Inc. upped the ante for 2014 by announcing the addition of a third ground-breaking class. The Ocala $1 Million Grand Prix, to be held next March and will join the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York and the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal, California next year to form the Triple Crown Challenge of Show Jumping.
The Ocala $1 Million Grand Prix will take place at the conclusion of the now 10-week 2014 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit on Sunday, March 23 and is the latest addition to an already impressive list of events for high-performance riders next year. Growing in size and popularity, the Ocala Winter Circuit will wrap with the Ocala Million and ground will soon break at HITS Post Time Farm for a new state-of-the-art jumping field to host the historic event.
The brainchild of HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri, the first leg of the new trifecta event will take place in Southern California with the second-annual AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix Sunday, March 16 at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. International and Olympic-level talent converged on HITS Thermal this past winter for the first-ever $1 million class on the West Coast and Struzzieri gave an immediate thumbs up to a repeat in 2014.
Just one week later, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will host the second $1 million grand prix, the premiere of the Ocala Million – giving some of the world’s equestrian stars a chance to win the prestigious Triple Crown Challenge. The third and final leg will take place at HITS-on-the-Hudson when the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix, the class that started it all, takes the stage September 7 for the fourth consecutive year in Saugerties.
“There is no better way to reward our customers than to continue offering big-money classes,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “I can’t imagine how electric Saugerties will be if someone has a chance for the Triple Crown going into Championship Weekend at HITS-on-the-Hudson.”
If one horse-and-rider combination does indeed conquer the Triple Crown Challenge and win all three $1 million grand prix next year, Struzzieri plans to offer a sizable rider bonus modeled after the Triple Crown Bonus offered in the Thoroughbred racing industry.
When the news hit the ears of eager grand prix riders from all corners of the world, excitement led them to admit that they don’t plan to let mileage keep them from missing any of the million-dollar action. “I had to pinch myself,” said grand prix rider and HITS Ocala regular Tracey Fenney of her reaction to the news. “For HITS to offer three $1 million classes in one year is extraordinary. I would say there is a great chance that I compete in all three of them.”
With more top-notch events being offered on American soil, riders are not only seeing dollar signs, but are enjoying an increase in the level of sport in the United States. “These classes are very comparable to the Olympics – to jump a clear round is no easy task,” said McLain Ward, a two-time U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist and twice the winner of the Saugerties Million and competitor in the first Thermal Million. “As a country, we are only as good as our horses and riders and these classes are raising that bar.”