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Richard Spooner had four mounts in the top 12 of the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix at HITS Thermal

THERMAL, CA (January 26, 2009)—The first week of competition at the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit came to a close Sunday when Richard Spooner and Oscany Incorporated’s Quirino 3 captured the blue in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.

Spooner outlasted 29 riders on course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr.'s first-round course and an additional eight horse/rider pairs that advanced to the jump-off en route to taking the first-place check. Spooner's victory marks the second Grand Prix triumph of the week for the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner. In fact, Spooner was in the irons aboard Quirino 3 in Friday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix when the pair had the fastest double-clear round.

"I am not here to mess around," said Spooner. "It's been years since I have had a start this good at the HITS Desert Circuit."

Spooner qualified three horses for Petersen's jump-off round: Ace, Quirino 3 and Pako. Spooner was first to go in the jump-off aboard S&B LLC’s Ace, and made it all the way home with a clear round in 42.486 to set the Great American Time to Beat right off the bat. When the class was complete, Spooner and Ace grabbed the red ribbon.

Second to go in the jump-off was Macella ’O'Neill and Melanie Rapp’s mount Incandescent. A second consecutive clear round to begin the jump-off placed the duo in fourth place when they stopped the clocks in 46.667.

Guy Thomas and Willow Tree Farm’s Carino were next to show and dropped two rails to finish in sixth place. Jill Humphrey was fourth to go in the jump-off aboard Leonne Equestrian’s Kaskaya. She finished the jump-off round in seventh place with14 faults.

Spooner was fifth to go in the jump-off this time aboard Quirino 3. They made the dash for the cash in 41.135 to take home the first-place check for S&B LLC. After his round aboard Quirino 3, Spooner quickly got his third mount ready for the jump-off when he mounted Pako. They were sixth to go in the jump-off and retired, finishing in eighth place.

Seventh in the jump-off order was Katherine Bardis and C&S Partnership's Pariska 3. Bardis and her mount were clean and stopped the clocks in 46.238 to finish in third place. Bardis, who trains with Spooner, was also third in Friday's feature class. "I knew I wasn't going to beat Richard, so the jump-off was more fun than competitive," said Bardis. "Even if I thought I could beat him, he would kill me if I did."

"I am her trainer so I made the decision easy for her," joked Spooner. "I told her to take her time and go around the combination."

"I thought the course was great and all of the horses seemed like they were in mid-season form," said Bardis.

Jill Humphrey was in the envious position of going last in the jump-off when she returned for her second ride, this time aboard Equistar's Camelita. The pair navigated the course without dropping any rails, but their time of 49.235 was well off of the pace as they finished in fifth place to end the class.

The $50,000 EMO Grand Prix paid off for Team Spooner. Bardis collected $6,500 for her yellow-ribbon effort and Spooner pocketed almost $30,000 with his first, second, eighth and 12th place finishes.

Show-jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues with Desert Circuit II which begins on Tuesday, January 27. Desert Circuit II will feature 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.

Fine equestrian art will also be on display this weekend in the indoor arena during the Equine Art Reception on Friday and Saturday. 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 $50,000 EMO Grand Prix


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