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John McConnell aces his first career Grand Prix victory in California

THERMAL, CA (February 28, 2009)—Some of the top riders on the West Coast challenged course designer Florencio Hernandez's (Mexico City, Mexico) course, and only John McConnell walked out of the first round with a clean effort as he captured the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix aboard Klein Ranch's Carolina.

McConnell got the best of 49 riders to win his first Grand Prix class ever in the state of California. "I was very fortunate to go sixth and the other riders didn't think it was going to be so hard. The time was a little tight and I think a lot of the riders were racing to beat the time allowed and ended up dropping some rails."

"I expected it to be different," said Hernandez. "I thought I would have six clear. All of the riders told me it was a good course. I didn't think anything was too difficult or too technical."

Guy Thomas also jumped clear in the first round, but could not make it home under the time allowed of 91 seconds. Thomas and Vicki Juelsgaard's Urian stopped the clocks in 92.172 and finished with two time faults and grabbed a red ribbon when the class was complete.

"I thought the course was great," said Thomas. “Florencio did a heck of a good job and I had a lot of fun riding it. My young horse was fantastic."

"I didn't think it was so hard when I walked it," said Canadian Olympian John Pearce. "But, the course turned out to be very difficult. He used the plank jump three times, the skinny jump was tricky, and the oxers were big and square and hard to jump."

Taking third place was Mary Manfredi and Saer Coulter’s Chilan as she was the fastest of the riders with four faults. Richard Spooner and Oscany Inc’s Quirino 3 took fourth place and Pearce was fifth aboard Forest View Farm’s/Gerald Moore’s Chianto.

Grand Prix riders are invited to a Grand Prix riders meeting to discuss the 2009 Grand Prix schedule on Wednesday, March 6, in the Oasis Club following the last class of the day.

Show jumping at HITS Thermal continues all weekend with Desert Circuit V and features the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix on Sunday.

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: John McConnell is on course during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix.


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