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Thermal Rider Achieves Highest American Finish in 20 Years at the 2008 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals

THERMAL, CALIFORNIA (April 30, 2008) – HITS Desert Circuit veteran Rich Fellers and his mount Flexible finished higher than any other American pair at the 2008 FEI World CupTM this past weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden. In fact, their second-place finish was the best American finish in more than 20 years, not to mention the fact that Fellers is only one of 11 Americans to ever finish in the top three.

Impressive statistics for the man and mount that dominated the FEI World Cup Qualifiers held at the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California just two months ago. After taking second in the World Cup, Fellers openly credited the new covered arena in Thermal for helping him to prepare for the Finals. Prepare is an understatement, as Fellers and Flexible captured three of the four $50,000 Tourneau FEI World Cup Qualifiers, presented by Adequan over the course of the eight-week circuit. The combination’s performance in Thermal helped to propel them to the top of the U.S. West Coast League Standings, and ultimately into the top-three at the Finals.

"What an outstanding performance by Rich and Flexible," said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. "Rich and the Chapmans should be extremely proud of this achievement."

"All that I can say is I am very fortunate that HITS stepped up to the plate last year in Thermal," said Fellers. "There is no question in my mind that riding in the covered arena really helped me, as a rider, be as prepared as I could be for the World Cup. To the horses, the covered arena in Thermal was very similar to the one in Sweden. It was filled with crowd noise, activity and color. But most importantly, it was a small confined area. We were jumping huge jumps on fast tracks, just like at the World Cup."

Fellers also credited the footing in the covered arena at HITS Thermal. "I think the footing in the covered arena at HITS Thermal was a notch better than it was in Sweden," said Fellers. "The footing that was used inside of the covered arena in Thermal is the best footing that I have ever seen."

Flexible is an Irish stallion owned by Harry and Molly Chapman for the past eight years. "They were as happy as I have ever seen them," said Fellers. "Molly showed an entire new set of emotions. She is usually very quiet and doesn't like a lot of noise around her when the horses are on course. But on Sunday, she was sitting next to my two children and they said she was jumping out of her seat the entire time!"

The new covered arena at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California was created for the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit at the request of the West Coast World Cup riders to simulate the experience of the World Cup competition.

“Obviously, the mileage in the covered arena at HITS Thermal made a dynamic difference in the direction of this horse’s wonderful career,” said Kathy Hobstetter, Executive Director of the West Coast Active Riders. “Rich made the entire country proud!”

“Despite the extraordinary investment, the indoor arena at HITS Thermal was well worth it,” said Struzzieri. “The performance of all the West Coast riders in Sweden demonstrates that the riders were absolutely correct last year when they stated that a covered arena would help them better prepare for these important Finals. I’m glad that we were able to make that happen and help give them an edge.”

Thermal veterans Richard Spooner and Mandy Porter also advanced to Sunday’s final round of 20 combinations, making the 2008 FEI World Cup the finest showing to date for West Coast riders.

Spooner, who is the HITS Desert Circuit’s all-time leading money winner, rode his mount Cristallo to an 18th-place finish in the 2008 FEI World Cup. Spooner competed in all four FEI World Cup classes at HITS Thermal and won more than $200,000 in prize money during the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit. He capped off his winter tour in the desert with a victory aboard Cristallo in the $200,000 HITS Invitational Grand Prix.

Porter rode her 13-year-old mount Summer to a 19th-place finish in Sweden. The combination earned some valuable FEI World Cup points for the U.S. West Coast League at HITS Thermal, competing in all four qualifiers held at the HITS Desert Circuit. Highlighting her circuit was a victory aboard Summer in the $50,000 Strongid® C 2XTM Grand Prix.

“What an exciting finish for the U.S. and for the West Coast, in particular, to have such success,” said Dale Harvey HITS High Performance Liaison and Technical Coordinator. “It’s tremendous to see such a dedicated group of riders rewarded for their commitment and preparation.”

Other Thermal riders who placed in the top 40 include Canada’s Jill Henselwood and New Zealand’s Guy Thomas.

The 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 15-19, making HITS Thermal, just a four-hour trip away, the perfect place to prepare.

“With the World Cup being in Las Vegas in 2009, we hope even more riders take advantage of our covered arena and the conditions at HITS Thermal,” said Struzzieri. “Not only does the ring prepare the horses for the World Cup, as we’ve seen, but the desert climate in Thermal and Las Vegas are similar, which will go a long way to help get the horses acclimated to the conditions.”

HITS has successfully run the World Cup classes at its West Coast Circuit since 1991, giving riders on the West Coast an opportunity to qualify for the prestigious World Cups year after year right in their own backyard. Originally HITS hosted two FEI events in Arizona. In 1992, those two FEI classes were moved to Indio and then in 1993 HITS obtained an additional two classes to bring the total to four. During the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit, at the request of the West Coast World Cup riders, HITS Management offered all four of the FEI World Cup Qualifiers in a new covered ring that featured a state-of-the-art matting system paired with what many riders praised as the best footing available.

For more coverage on the 2008 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, including video of the press conference and an interview with Rich Fellers, visit SportHorse.TV.

2009 HITS Thermal Dates

DC I: January 20-25

DC II: January 27 - February 1* (FEI World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix offered)

DC III: February 3-8* (FEI World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix offered)

OFF-WEEK: February 9-15

DC IV: February 17-22* (FEI World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix offered)

DC V: February 24 - March 1

DC VI: March 3-8* (FEI World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix offered)

DC VII: March 10-15

DC Championship: March 17-22

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: ©2008 Flying Horse Photography; Rich Fellers and Flexible win $50,000 Tourneau FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan at HITS Thermal.


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