THERMAL, CA (March 23, 2009)— Hunters got their chance to show their stuff on Saturday night when the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Dietrich Insurance Featuring Walsh Harness & Saddlery took the stage under the lights in the majestic Grand Prix ring.
For the second time during the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit, it was John French and Mountain Homes Stables' Rumba that captured the blue as they took home the first-place check of $3,000.
The first round was a regular Classic course and the second round was a Handy Hunter course that included a trot jump, roll-backs and option jumps. During the second round, judges were able to award bonus points for brilliance and handiness.
Taking second place in the popular hunter class was Jenny Karazissis who rode Tonia Cook-Looker's Forbes. Keri Kampsen rode Laurel Ridge Sport Horses' On Top to third and the yellow ribbon.
"Rumba is a great horse and he was really up for the challenge. He was so explosive and I am very thankful that the Siebels let me ride him."
"I think Jenny Karazissis is one of the best hunter riders in the country," continued French. "She had three horses in the class and to be able to beat her speaks volumes about the horse that I was riding."
"It was a joy to be here for the derby," said Joe Thorpe, who operates Sovereign Place with Kampsen."Keri was fantastic tonight but John has proven once again how good of a rider he is. He was a very deserving winner."
Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship
In other weekend action, Caroline Ingalls captured the Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship on Friday night in the Grand Prix arena before an excited crowd that packed the VIP Oasis Club.
Ingalls, who trains under the guidance of Hap Hansen captured the highest two-round score of the exhibitors who battled it out for the crown. Ingalls was in the irons aboard Redfield Farm's Lazio during this unique class.
"I really liked the class," said Ingalls. "My favorite part was getting to know the rest of the competitors who were showing."
The two-round Classic was held as part of the new Desert Circuit VIII at Thermal. In the first round, riders competed over a course of fences which included gymnastics, trot fences, oxers, verticals and combinations. The top-12 riders were called back in reverse order of their score to complete the second round.
Cayla Richards and Samantha Harrison also excelled during the class and finished second and third respectively.
Throughout the competition, riders were not allowed to communicate with their trainers or any other resources – they had to do it all – from preparation of their horse to course walking – on their own. Scores were given from two sets of judges at the ring, and another set of judges observing the schooling area who provided a score of plus or minus one or two bonus points, based on the rider’s preparation of their horse.
"My trainers had me prepared for the class," said Ingalls. "When I was in the schooling ring, I knew exactly what to do because of all of the hard work that I put in at the barn."
Judges for the class included Canadian Olympians Jill Henselwood and Laura Baliski and Irish show jumper Eddie Macken. "It was a treat," said Henselwood. "All of the kids rode fantastically and it was my pleasure to judge this prestigious class."
The Classic is held in honor of accomplished equestrian and life-long artist, R.W. Mutch. An early student of Gordon Wright and Al Homewood, Mutch won the AHSA Medal Finals in 1950 at the age of 15. At 18, he was the youngest rider at the time to ride for the USET. It is a highly sought-after honor to be invited to participate in the class and, as a result, it has become a major goal of junior riders across the country.
$150,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert cancelled due to high winds
The $150,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert that was scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon to conclude the season at HITS Thermal was canceled when a huge windstorm that stretched from Northern California all the way to Mexico and closed the interstate for long stretches of miles hit the show grounds with a vengeance.
HITS will compensate the 38 entered riders by evenly dividing the $150,000. "I would much rather have held the class," said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. "We weighed several options and after meeting with all of the Grand Prix riders we came to the conclusion that for the safety of the horses and the riders, offering all riders a credit was the most prudent alternative."
The HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner Richard Spooner agreed with HITS' decision. "It was above and beyond the call of duty," said Spooner. "The weather here was perfect this year and to have such a bizarre day on the final Sunday was very unfortunate. But I am very happy with the end decision."
"I am amazed at the generosity of Tom (Struzzieri) and HITS," said Grand Prix rider Helen McNaught, "I would like to thank everyone involved at HITS for a great circuit."
Other major winners during Desert Circuit VIII include:
Potcreek Meadow Farm Junior Sportsman Award: Richard Neal
SHALANNO Style of Riding Award: Lucy Davis
Jimmy Kohn Style of Riding Award: Joie Gatlin
Michael Patrick Grand Hunter Champion: Titlist 8 , ridden and owned by Didi McKenzie.
Catena Leading Lady Rider Award (Leading Female Grand Prix Rider): Ashlee Bond
HITS, Inc. is a special events management company primarily focused on producing hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, Florida in 1982. Since that time, HITS has grown into a nationwide company with world-class hunter/jumper circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit http://www.HitsShows.com
Photo Credit: ©Flying Horse Photography
Photo Caption: Caroline Ingalls on course
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