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Richard Spooner is victorious in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix at the HITS Desert Circuit

THERMAL, CA (January 24, 2009)—The HITS Desert Circuit crowned its first Grand Prix winning pair of 2009 when Richard Spooner and Quirino 3 captured the blue in Friday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix to kick off the first weekend of show jumping at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.

Spooner outlasted 36 pairs in the first round and was one of 16 who advanced to course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr.'s jump-off course. "I couldn't be any happier with the performance of Quirino 3," said Spooner. "It was one of the fastest jump-off times that I have ever had in my life."

Spooner and Quirino 3 were one of six double-clear efforts in Friday's feature class. The duo were sixth to go in the jump-off and stopped the clocks in a blazing 38.185. "You don't see rounds like that too often," said Petersen. "That was probably one of the three fastest rounds that I have ever seen in all of my life."

"It was one of those trips that comes along every once in a while," said Spooner. "I walked out of the ring and said to myself, ‘If anyone beats that, I am going to buy them a bottle of champagne.’"

Although Spooner was in the drivers’ seat, he still had to watch several additional trips in the jump-off, including Canadian Olympian John Pearce. Aboard Chianto, Pearce was able to navigate the jump-off course without dropping a rail, but his time of 41.877 was well off of Spooner's leading time. When the class was complete, a very happy Pearce grabbed the red ribbon.

"All of my homework with this horse is paying off," said Pearce. "We have been spending a lot of time bonding and getting to know each other."

Pearce purchased Chianto one year ago from an amateur rider. Pearce says Chianto is a very talented horse, but there have been some growing pains along the way. "Every day I get a prize with him is a bonus," he said. "His strides are getting bigger and his mouth is getting softer. It's nice to stay competitive after selling Archie Bunker last year."

Archie Bunker was Pearce's top mount, and will be ridden by Will Simpson this winter at HITS Thermal. Simpson did not show on Friday, but will be in the irons in Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix.

Other pairs to jump double-clear were Katherine Bardis and Mademoiselle, Veronica Tracy and Muscadet De La Saveniere, Jill Humphrey and Kaskaya and John McConnell and Carolina to finish third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

Petersen had glowing remarks all around after the class. "Overall it was a nice start. The place looks great and the rings are in great shape. The footing is as good as it was last year and I thought it was excellent then."

"The horses jumped great and that's a testament to the great condition of the ring," said Petersen.

Show jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues all weekend and will feature Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix.

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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