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Richard Spooner enjoys strong start to the HITS Desert Circuit

THERMAL, CA (January 28, 2009)—Richard Spooner has quite a legacy at the HITS Desert Circuit and he's already proven in one short week that he's all about adding to his success. With two back-to-back wins aboard Oscany, Inc.'s Quirino 3 and more than $36,000 in Grand Prix prize money accumulated so far, it's clear he wasn't joking when he said "I'm not here to mess around!"

With seven weeks remaining in the circuit and 14 Grand Prix events, including four FEI World Cup Qualifiers, Spooner has plenty of opportunity to continue what could be his best Desert Circuit yet. Originally, Spooner contemplated heading East after the first part of the Desert Circuit but he's been so impressed with the performance of his horses, the footing and facilities that he has decided to stick to his roots and stay in the desert.

"It's difficult to find a place with an excellent balance of great footing, world-class competition and a facility large enough to facilitate proper horse training," said Spooner. "HITS Thermal offers all of that and much more and that's why I decided to stay in California this winter."

"We are delighted to have Richard continue on at Thermal," said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. "His decision to stay speaks volumes to me about what we've accomplished here and it is the best possible compliment we could ask for."

"The show continues to improve and this is the region that I am from so I feel it's very important to support the shows in this area as much as I can," added Spooner.

At HITS Thermal last year, in addition to winning six Grand Prix events, Spooner enjoyed two amazing career milestones when he captured his 100th career victory in the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix during DC I and claimed the top prize in the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix of the Desert during the DC Championship, which was the single largest purse he had ever won.

Spooner has his work cut out for him this season, as he will be competing against some pretty heavy hitters, including McLain Ward, Will Simpson and Jill Henselwood, all fresh off their Olympic triumphs, not to mention Rich Fellers, who utterly dominated the World Cup Qualifiers last season and finished second in the World Cup Finals, Joie Gatlin, Jill Humphrey and even his own student Katherine Bardis, who finished third to Spooner in Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix will be some tough competition as well.

Show-jumping action at the HITS Desert Circuit continues this week 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. Like many, Spooner is after one of the three West Coast qualifying spots for the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals, which will be held just four hours away from Thermal in Las Vegas, Nevada in April. HITS Thermal not only has the most World Cup qualifiers of any single winter circuit, it's also the only facility offering riders and horses the opportunity to compete indoors, which according to Fellers in 2008 was a major factor in his second-place finish in Sweden.

International Course Designer, Robert Ellis of Great Britain is in town this week and will be setting the courses for both the Thursday $25,000 HITS Grand Prix and Saturday night's World Cup Class. Ellis is one of several new designer's scheduled to be at HITS Thermal this year.

"It's shaping up to be quite a season," said Struzzieri. "There's a lot of excitement around the show grounds and we are looking forward to a great circuit and many more here in Thermal."

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 last Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix


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