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Canadian Olympians score first and second in the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS Thermal

THERMAL, CA (March 2, 2009)—Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood captured the blue aboard Juniper Farm's Special Ed in the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix to conclude Desert Circuit V at HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California

Henselwood was one of eleven riders who aced course designer Florencio Hernandez's (Mexico City, Mexico) first-round course to advance to the jump-off en route to taking the first-place check in today’s Grand Prix.

Henselwood's victory marks her first Grand Prix win of the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit season, making this a particularly sweet win for Henselwood and the horse that was her Olympic mount.

"I was hungry for a win," said Henselwood. "Special Ed was just kind of hanging around waiting to get some work in because he has not done any of the Grand Prix classes that were held indoors. He was kind of dormant and goofy earlier in the week, but then he realized it was time to get some work done."

Hernandez's course boasted only four double-clear efforts, including Joie Gatlin who set the pace aboard her mount Suncal's King on the fourth trip of the jump-off. Gatlin and her trusty Grand Prix horse stopped the clocks in 50.802 and would finish the afternoon in fourth place.

"The course designer pulled no punches all week," said Gatlin. "He made us work for every class and today he got the right mixture to make for an exciting jump-off. I went as fast as I thought I could go and still be clean, but those Canadians brushed off the frost and showed us why they are Olympic Medalists."

Gatlin's time would be on top of the leader board for four rounds until Henselwood and Special Ed entered the ring in the eighth spot. The 2008 Olympic Silver Medal Winner piloted Juniper Farm's Special Ed to a clean round in 48.066 to set the Great American Time to Beat at 48.066 and eventually win the blue.

The $75,000 HITS Grand Prix would then end with a bang when the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner Richard Spooner and Canadian Olympian John Pearce had back-to-back clean rounds to conclude the class.

First it was Spooner's turn, when he showed 10th in the jump-off order and rode Oscany, Inc.'s Quirino 3 to a clean round in 50.581 to eventually finish in third place.

Pearce and Forest View Farm's Son of a Gun held the enviable last-to-ride spot and were fast and clean stopping the clock in 48.196, just missing the time set by Henselwood to finish in second place. Pearce also placed fifth aboard Forest View Farm's and Gerald Moore's Chianto as they finished with four faults.

"I think the course designer is fantastic," said Pearce. He is fresh, new and creative. He educated the horses all week and I look forward to seeing him in California next year."

Pearce's praises did not end with the course designer, as he gave glowing reviews about the footing. "It's just perfect," said Pearce. It's some of the best footing that I have jumped on."

After the class, Hernandez was pleased with the way it played out. "I wanted to get 12 clean so we would have an exciting jump-off," said Hernandez. "I got 11 so I am very happy. I had a great time here in California. The facility is first-class and the footing is excellent. I look forward to coming back to Thermal in 2010."

Show-jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues with Desert Circuit VI which begins on Tuesday, March 3. Desert Circuit VI will feature a full week of classes, including the Central Equine Relay on Friday night and the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan on Saturday night in the indoor arena.

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: Jill Henselwood is congratulated by HITS' Tony Hitchcock, John Eickman and Debbie Morlock.


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