CULPEPER, VA (April 24, 2012) – Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood aboard Juniper Farm’s George continued her journey towards the Pfizer Million and the 2012 Olympics with a big win at Commonwealth Park in Sunday’s $40,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. As she prepares for the Nations Cup Series in Belgium and Austria, Henselwood spent last week in Culpeper, Virginia where she also picked up wins in Friday’s $15,000 Brook Ledge Open Jumper Prix and Thursday’s $2,000 Level 7 Jumper.
“I came to Virginia to make sure [George] is on his game and I knew we would be guaranteed good weather since there is snow at home,” said Henselwood. “The venue and the competition were super. These Virginia riders are always quick, so it was great preparation.”
Fellow Canadian Danny Foster of Milton, Ontario designed the course and presented riders an immediate jump-off option. Foster crafted a 14-obstacle track, which included three double combinations. Faults were scattered as his course proved to be challenging, but attainable. Ten were clear over the first round course, but only two managed to produce double clear efforts – Henselwood and Laura Linback of Mundelin, Illinois in the irons of Woodrun’s HH Dauphin.
“I thought this class turned out really well,” said Foster. “The weather always makes it a little uncomfortable, but the footing was just as good as ever. There was a lot of great talent here at this show. Jill [Henselwood] is just fantastic and I thought a lot of the horses jumped extremely well today.”
Despite storms that stretched throughout the day on Sunday, the footing reacted well and horses jumped without trouble.
“Even saturated with rain, this footing can withstand anything,” said Henselwood. “The horses weren’t sinking, they weren’t slipping and it was still a nice class. George jumped incredibly and it was a great way to start the season.”
Henselwood and George, owned by Brian Gingras, set the Great American Time to Beat at 44.954 seconds late in the class and chose the immediate jump-off to ultimately capture the win. After a successful winter season at HITS Thermal, Henselwood gained valuable qualifying leverage for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in September at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.
Admittedly, Henselwood has not yet chosen a horse for the Pfizer Million, but has plenty of talent to choose from between George and Henselwood’s other top-performing mount, IV Ever, also owned by Brian Gingras.
Second place in Sunday’s Grand Prix went to HITS Ocala veteran Linback and HH Dauphin. The pairreturned first for a jump-off at the end of the first round and crossed the timers in 47.661 seconds. Linback and HH Dauphin competed all winter at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and earned several top prizes before heading north.
Third place went to Jeanne Hobbs of Southern Pines, North Carolina and her own Nielson B. They posted the fasted jump-off time of 42.159 seconds, but one rail down earned them the yellow ribbon. Hobbs and Nielson B have a few years of experience together and also look to make their third appearance at the 2012 Pfizer Million.
Rounding out the top five were longtime HITS veterans and accomplished riders Patty Stovel and Michael Kirby. Stovel, of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania and her own Carigor Z finished in fourth place and Kirby of Madison, Connecticut finished in fifth on his own KT Undercover.
$15,000 Brook Ledge Open Jumper Prix
Sunday’s $40,000 Grand Prix looked a lot like Friday’s $15,000 Brook Ledge Open Jumper Prix as Jill Henselwood and Laura Linback captured the first and second place ribbons. As twenty-five competitors got an early taste of Foster’s expectations on the field, Henselwood earned her first of two big wins on George, while Linback took the red ribbon aboard Woodrun’s Whittaker MVNZ. Jason Berry of Verona, Virginia earned the third place ribbon with his own Indy.
As HITS Culpeper enjoyed an outstanding start to the spring and summer circuits, show jumping action prepares to head north to HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York for three consecutive weeks of hunter/jumper action starting May 23 before returning to Culpeper July 4. Qualifiers for the Pfizer Million, Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final and the $250,000 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix Final will be held at HITS-on-the-Hudson and HITS Culpeper all summer long as the road to HITS Championship Weekend continues on.