January 17, 2014--With the 2014 HITS Desert Circuit set to open its gates to seven weeks of competition on Tuesday, Christian Heineking is riding high as he makes his debut in Thermal, California as the leading rider on the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix Rider Standings. With a barn of 15 horses making their winter home at HITS Thermal, Heineking is primed to leave his mark on the Desert Circuit and is hopeful that his early leverage will point him toward success in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, March 16.
After dominating the $41,000 LEG Anniversary Grand Prix, going one-two with his mounts NKH Selena and River of Dreams, Heineking won the $50,000 LEGIS Grand Prix of Los Angeles. NKH Selena, owned by NKH, LLC is the horse that got him to the World Cup qualifying win, pocketing two victories in a row in Los Angeles.
The World Cup qualifier, coupled with a very successful fall season shot Heineking to the top of the AIG Million Standings with a total of $34,800 won aboard NKH Selena. “Selena is a young horse, but she really stepped up for me during that second week in Los Angeles,” said Heineking of the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare that he has been riding since her five-year-old year. “She has a great attitude and wants to get it done for you every time.”
Joining the likes of World Cup champions, Olympians and million-dollar veterans at HITS Thermal, Heineking is matched with a crowd of hopeful, and very capable, contenders for the AIG Million. “To be leading this group of riders is a compliment to me as a rider, as well as my horses. It feels great,” he admitted.
Moving down the list of AIG Million Rider standings, Heineking is flanked by Mandy Porter of Encinitas, California who is looking for her first AIG Million appearance with Plum Creek Hollow Farm's Con Capilot. Mexico’s Enrique Gonzales sits third with his own Quilebo du Tillard, while Egypt’s Nayel Nassar and Lordan set their sights on a possible second million-dollar win. Nassar is currently fourth in the standings and won the 2013 Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York aboard Lordan in September. Vinton Karrasch of Rancho Santa Fe, California is currently fifth with Coral Reef Baloufino, owned by Coral Reef Ranch.
HITS Thermal competition gets under way on Tuesday, and grand prix action begins next Friday with the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Riders will have to compete in at least one qualifying grand prix during four unique show weeks throughout the seven-week HITS Thermal circuit in order to become eligible to compete in the AIG Million.
To view the complete AIG Million Rider Standings, click here.