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Mandy Porter and San Diego win the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS Desert Circuit II

THERMAL, CA (January 30, 2009)—Thursday night proved to be ladies night during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix when Mandy Porter grabbed the blue aboard Danielle Korsh's San Diego to win the class and jump start an action-packed weekend of show jumping at the HITS Desert Circuit Week II, in Thermal, California.

Porter and San Diego outlasted 42 riders who competed on International Course Designer Robert Ellis' (Stafford, England) track and an additional five who advanced to the jump-off to collect $7,500 in first-place prize money.

Rich Fellers and Flexible, owned by Harry and Molly Chapman, went first in the jump-off. Fellers and Flexible made it all the way home clean in 43.84 to establish the Great American Time to Beat right from the start. When the class was complete the duo would sit in third place.

Next to show was Karl Cook aboard Signe Ostby's Uno de Laubry. Cook and his ride dropped a single rail midway through the trip to finish in fifth place. Third in the order were Ashlee Bond and Little Valley Farm's Cadett 7. Bond made the dash for the cash in great time, stopping the clocks in 42.06 to move into the lead. Bond’s time would be good enough for second place.

Cadett 7 is a new mount for Bond on the HITS Desert Circuit. She bought him in July and has already made her mark in the irons. The duo won the $75,000 Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows and now can add a top finish at HITS Thermal to their resume.

"It was a tough course that demanded a lot," said Bond. "I am feeling great. It was a blast to ride tonight because the class was in the indoor ring and I love showing in there. The building was filled with a great atmosphere and the crowd was just incredible."

Jill Humphrey had the ride next aboard Equistar LLC's Camelita. The pair went clear in a time of 48.46 to finish the night in fourth place.

Mandy Porter and San Diego were sitting in the enviable last-to-go spot and took full advantage of it when they stopped the clocks in 41.15 to edge out Bond and Cadett 7 for the win.

"That wasn't too bad for our first time out this year," smiled Porter. "San Diego was fabulous tonight. He was just flying around the course. We came off a nice break and he seems like he is ready to make a great run in the desert this winter."

"What a great class," said Ellis. "I thought Rich Fellers would be fast enough to win it but then Ashlee and Mandy were just super fast. You can't get a better class."

"It looks like I let the girls beat me tonight," joked Fellers.

The $25,000 HITS Grand Prix also marked the arrival of two-time Gold Medal Winner McLain Ward to the HITS Desert Circuit. Although he didn't advance to the jump-off, Ward finished with three horses in the money.

"We are really enjoying ourselves here,” said Ward. “Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. We would love to make this part of our annual winter tour. Now we just need to start jumping some clear rounds."

This is Ward’s first time competing at the HITS Desert Circuit and his first visit to the 300-acre HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California which was built in 2006 after the circuit outgrew the former show grounds in Indio.

"The show grounds are very horse-friendly and spacious with a lot less congestion than Wellington,” added Ward.

Show-jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues all weekend with Desert Circuit II and features a full week of classes, including the first of four FEI World Cup Qualifiers in the indoor arena on Saturday night with the $50,000 Strongid® C 2X FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan.

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: ©Flying Horse Photography; Mandy Porter and San Diego on course during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix.


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