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The $25,000 HITS Grand Prix and Ronnie Mutch Equitation Classic highlight the action at HITS Thermal

THERMAL, CA (March 21, 2009)— Rich Fellers rode Harry and Mollie Chapman's Flexible to the blue in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix on Friday afternoon in the Grand Prix Ring at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.

Fellers got the best of 51 riders on Olympic course designer Olaf Petersen's (Paehl, Germany) first-round course and the 15 who advanced to the jump-off to secure $7,500 in first-place prize money. The victory for Fellers served as a perfect warm-up for Sunday's $150,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert that will conclude the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit.

Six of the 15 horse-and-rider combinations jumped double clear with Fellers and Flexible posting the fastest double-clear round as they stopped the clock in 38.276 to secure the win. The duo now have two Grand Prix triumphs at HITS Thermal as they look to grab the $45,000 first-place check in Sunday's feature class.

"It was a good win," said Fellers. "I am very optimistic about Sunday. I really feel that my horse is gaining momentum at the end of the circuit and that is a very positive sign."

Mandy Porter rode Danielle Korsch's San Diego to a second-place finish when they came home all the way clear in 39.326 to come in second place. Porter and San Diego now have three wins this circuit, including a triumph in the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan during Desert Circuit II.

Ashlee Bond rode Little Valley Farm's Cadett 7 to a clean trip in 40.222 to secure third place. They will add the yellow ribbon to their impressive collection of accolades that they have earned during the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit. Bond, who earned a spot in April's FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, has four wins so far this circuit including two of the four wins in the FEI World Cup Qualifiers on the circuit.

Also jumping double clear in Friday's feature class were Katherine Bardis and C & S Partnership's Mademoiselle, Peter Breakwell and No Drama's Lucas and Bliss Heers and Bridgeside Farms' Lilly of the Valley to finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

"This is the best group of horses that I have seen at any show in California," said Petersen. "The horses jumped very well and I know that I have to add quite a bit for Sunday's big Grand Prix."

Other top equestrians like the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner Richard Spooner, Canadian Olympians Jill Henselwood and John Pearce, as well as Olympic Gold Medal Winner Will Simpson are expected to show in the grand finale of the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit.

Simpson will have a busy weekend as he presents a very special Will Simpson Clinic for the Compton Junior Possee, a California-based organization dedicated to encouraging inner city and underprivileged youth to become productive members of society by using horses to teach possee members responsibility, discipline, and increase self-esteem. Six horses and riders will take part in the Sunday morning clinic with the Olympic Gold medalist. Spectators are invited to observe the clinic, expected to start about 9AM on Sunday at the HITS Thermal showgrounds.

Photo Credit: ©Flying Horse Photography

Photo Caption: Rich Fellers is on course during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix.


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