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Rave reviews for the HITS Desert Circuit after a brilliant opening week

THERMAL, CA (January 27, 2009)—The 2009 HITS Desert Circuit kicked off last week at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California and drew glowing reviews in every area, from the footing to the flowers, as exhibitors enjoyed a full week of world-class show jumping in the warm California sunshine.

Dick Carvin, who showed at HITS Thermal in 2007 but opted to go to Florida in 2008, is delighted that he has returned to the West Coast for this year’s Desert Circuit with his 15 horses.

"The footing in the Grand Prix ring and all of the jumper rings is in tremendous condition," said Carvin. "My horses showed in all of the jumper rings and they love it. I couldn't be happier with the facility. The old Indio facility was a sentimental place for me and now the new horse park is starting to develop its own, wonderful identity."

"I think the new footing in the hunter rings is very nice," said Monarch International's Joe Thorpe. "It's obvious that HITS is dedicated to catering to their clients’ needs, and it's nice to see the constant improvements to the show grounds."

The new footing in the hunter rings is just one of many facility enhancements at the HITS Desert Horse Park new for 2009. The two main hunter rings now feature the "pink footing" that was requested by the trainers. The rings and jumps also feature beautiful decorations designed by Flora Baptiston. Baptiston was the course decorator for the 2008 Summer Olympics and has brought her unique touch to the desert.

"The rings look fantastic," said trainer Mark Bone of Huntover. "They add a brilliant splash of color."

HITS has also suspended the non-stabling fee, modified its post-entry policy and reduced its add/scratch fees for the 2009 show season in an effort to adapt to the recent economic concerns affecting so many.

“Wizards of Oz”

Long-time HITS exhibitors Brian and Dianne Laycoe (Ridgefield, Washington) enjoyed their first week competing at HITS Thermal. During this year’s circuit, they will fly from either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington, weekly to show with trainers Jeff and Shelly Campf of Oz Incorporated.

Brian Laycoe will be taking a pair of blue ribbons back to the Northwest with him as he captured the blue in two of the four classes in the Adult Equitation 51 & Over Division. Meanwhile, Dianne also won ribbons in the Adult Hunter 56 & Over and Adult Equitation 51 & Over.

"They just love it here," said Campf. "They are very dedicated to the sport and it’s nice to see them excel right off the bat. The countless hours of training are paying off.”

Spooner Leads the Way!

The Grand Prix schedule went into full swing during Desert Circuit I with the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix and the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix. A familiar face returned to the winners’ circle in Friday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix when Richard Spooner and Quirino 3 won the blue. In Sunday's feature class it was Spooner and Quirino 3 who did it again, winning the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, making it a great start for the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner.

Saer Coulter also had a remarkable weekend in the Grand Prix ring. She was in the irons aboard Hayden when she won the blue in the $5,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Low Classic and then won the $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper High Classic aboard Paddington in the next class of the afternoon.

Coulter, of San Francisco, California is no stranger to success. She was awarded the SHALANNO Style of Riding Award at HITS Thermal in 2008. "She is very serious about the jumper ring and has been working on her technique and it shows," said trainer Mary Manfredi.

Equestrian Idol Highlights Out-of-Ring Activities for Desert Circuit I

The second-annual HITS Desert Circuit Equestrian Idol took place on Friday night with judges Mark Bone, Kathy Hobstetter and John French. Guests at the event included top equestrians Jill Humphrey, Amanda Tallman and John McConnell, who each competed in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix just a few hours earlier.

When the talent competition was over, it was Matt Fournier and Juan Ayora who won the top prize for their wonderful duet, singing "New York, New York".

The contest was held in “Tumbleweeds,” the popular watering hole at the HITS Desert Horse Park with HITS’ own James Collins as the master of ceremonies.

Looking Ahead

Show jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues with Desert Circuit II beginning on Tuesday, January 27 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, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser as three Olympians are expected to compete – Will Simpson and McLain Ward from the U.S. Olympic Gold Team and Canadian Silver Medalist Jill Henselwood – along with West Coast superstars like Spooner, Rich Fellers, Joie Gatlin and others!

“This weekend we’ll have three Olympic Medal winners competing in Saturday night’s first World Cup Qualifier of the season,” said Dale Harvey, HITS’ Technical Coordinator and High-Performance Liaison. “What more could you ask for?”

Fine equestrian art will also be on display in the indoor arena during the Equine Art Reception on Friday and Saturday evenings. On Friday, the event will coincide with the $1,000 Pony Hunter Classic and on Saturday the fine art will be on display during 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; Richard Spooner and Quirino 3 on course during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix


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