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Will Simpson takes first in the $50,000 Purina Mills FEI World Cup Qualifier

THERMAL, CA (February 8, 2009)—Olympic Gold Medal winner Will Simpson raised the roof in the indoor arena at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California when he piloted Linda I. Smith's Archie Bunker to the blue in the $50,000 Purina Mills FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan.

Simpson bested 29 riders over a course built by Bernardo Cabral of Portugal, as well as the six horse/rider pairs that advanced to the jump-off en route to winning the first-place check.

"The crowd was just incredible," said Simpson. "I was heading for home and heard everyone yelling ‘Archie!’. We got it done tonight. That's what I am talking about!"

Simpson took on a star-studded field in the jump-off, including fellow Olympic Gold medal winner McLain Ward. "That was a dream come true," said Simpson. "To have McLain out here on the West Coast and to battle it out with him was perfect."

Archie Bunker is a new ride for Simpson and the partnership is already paying dividends. “After the Olympics, I thought it was time to relax a little bit," said Simpson. "But then I was blessed to get this fantastic ride. To be able to walk into the ring and be competitive right off the bat is more than I could have ever asked for. I respect this horse and can't wait to show him how good he can be."

Ward was first to go in the jump-off and set the pace right from the start with a clear round in 42.51 aboard Sagamore Farm's Phillipa. "It's always hard to go first," said Ward. "I went neat and clean because I didn't want to have any faults. I knew that my time would not be good enough, but if I had to do it all over again, I would use the same approach."

Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood rode Stacie Ryan's Black Ice next in the jump-off and had four faults to finish in fourth place. Ashlee Bond, winner of Thursday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, rode Little Valley Farm's Cadett 7 next in the jump-off and also had four faults and finished in fifth place.

Fourth to go was Helen McNaught and her mount Caballo. The pair voluntarily withdrew from the jump-off after they dropped two early rails to finish in sixth place. Harley Brown and Oak Park Group's Cassiato showed next and made it all the way home clear in 46.03 to finish in third place.

Simpson and Archie Bunker sat in the envious last-to-go spot and brought the crowd to its feet when they stopped the clocks in 40.24, a full two seconds faster than Ward, to win the class. "It's nice to have a horse that can deliver," said Simpson. "Archie was unbelievable tonight and won the class because he is so good on the tight rollbacks that really are fundamental when showing indoors."

"Will was really sitting in the cat-bird's seat," said Ward. "With a couple of riders having faults, he could really go for the time and either win the class or probably finish third at the worst."

“The indoor arena was jumping tonight,” added Ward. “There was a great atmosphere in the building and the riders on the West Coast are very fortunate to have such a great venue to show in.”

Ward, who is wrapping up his first trip to the HITS Desert Circuit, was very complimentary of his trip to California. "This is definitely going to be part of my winter tour," he said. "This is a first-class place to show and we were treated so nicely here."

“This was one of the most exciting classes that I have seen in a long time,” said HITS’ High-Performance Liaison Dale Harvey. “It was a great win for Will and to have three Olympians battling it out in the jump-off made it a tremendous night.”

With Simpson's victory, he not only earned precious FEI World Cup Points, but also earned valuable points for the Platinum Performance Leading World Cup Qualifier Rider at the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit. Currently, Simpson is fourth in the standings trailing Richard Spooner and Mandy Porter, who are tied for first and Ashlee Bond.

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; Will Simpson and Archie Bunker on course during the $50,000 Purina Mills FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan.


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