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Richard Spooner takes First and Second in Sunday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS Thermal

THERMAL, CA (March 10, 2008)—Richard Spooner's mount Robinson is supposed to be retired, but he has been getting a lot of action lately in the Grand Prix ring, as Spooner has been taking all of his victory gallops aboard his beloved gray horse.

"That's what we brought Robinson here for," said Spooner's head groom Tony Martinez. "Robinson deserves it and we are trying to make a ritual out of it. Sometimes it's hard to get him to the ring because we have so many horses in the Grand Prix."

In Sunday's $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, Spooner and Ace outlasted 40 starters in the first round and five pairs in the jump-off to win $15,000 in prize money for S & B LLC. Spooner and Ace had the only double-clear effort on international course designer Olaf Petersen's route.

"Ace cowboyed up today," said Spooner. "After the rollback in the jump-off, we just went for it and we won another Grand Prix!"

The victory is number 103 for the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner. He is looking to make it 104 wins next Sunday when the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix closes out the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit.

Spooner and Ace kicked off the jump-off and put the pedal to the metal stopping the clocks in 44.724 to set the Great American Time to Beat right off the bat. Katherine Bardis, who also rides for 'Team Spooner', was next to challenge Petersen's jump-off route aboard Conquest of Paradiso. Unfortunately, after a great first round, Bardis was eliminated when she fell off of her mount.

"I am really proud of Katherine," said Spooner. "She has just been super and to see her fall off at the second fence in the jump-off broke my heart. She is a tremendous worker and should be proud to finish in sixth place."

Spooner was back again for his second trip of the round, this time aboard Apache. The pair had the time beat by over two seconds but dropped a rail near the end of the course to finish in second place.

Next it was the Canadians who got their chance at Petersen's jump-off course. First, Canadian Olympian John Pearce and Chianto took aim. They had a rail down and finished in fourth place. Then, it was Jill Henselwood's turn aboard Special Ed. The pair had a rail down at the CWD vertical midway through the course and had to settle for third place.

Vancouver's Christopher Lowe and his mount Jackpot were in the last-to-go position. They dropped the final fence in the jump-off to finish the day in fifth place.

Sunday's Grand Prix was the final qualifier for the season's finale, the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, March 16 during the all new Championship Week at HITS Thermal. Spooner has amassed nearly $150,000 in Grand Prix prize money, the bulk of which was earned aboard Apache. Spooner and Apache currently own the number six spot in the standings for the Invitational. The top 30 pairs based on prize money won during the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit will be invited to compete in the class. The final list of the top 30 competitors for the Invitational is expected to be released by Wendesday, March 12. The Invitational Show Committee has the option of awarding a total of four invitations. Will Simpson of El Campeon Farms was invited last week by the Invitational Show Committee. It is expected that at least one more Grand Prix rider will be named prior to Sunday's class.

Competition at HITS Thermal continues on Tuesday, March 11 through Sunday, March 16 with the all-new DC Championship Week. DC Championship marks the return of the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Classic, the debut of the R.W. Mutch Equitation Classic on the West Coast and the crown jewel of the week, the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix. In all, more than 30 different champion classes and nearly $400,000 in prize money will be offered for the week.

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 Robinson are joined in the winner's circle by HITS' Director of Awards Wendy Metzger and HITS' Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock after Spooner took first in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix about his mount Ace at HITS Thermal.


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