Richard Spooner Wins his 100th Career Grand Prix
RELEASE: January 30, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Chris Mayone
The "100 Grand Prix Victory Club" welcomed its second member on Friday when Richard Spooner and his mare Ezrah captured the blue ribbon in the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix at HITS Thermal. Spooner is the HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner and is now only the second rider in the United States to secure 100 grand prix triumphs. Spooner is in elite company, as he shares the feat with Olympian Margie Engle, who was the first to reach that mark. Spooner is an internationally successful equestrian. In June 2006 at Spruce Meadows, he cleared the $1-million mark and became the 10th rider in show jumping history to reach that milestone.
"It was no easy feat," said Spooner after his win. "Chris Pratt (second place) was lightning-fast today, and I didn't think his time was reachable. Ezrah has been a great horse for me for a while now and even won the $150,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert a few years ago, so I am glad I won it on her."
"Richard is a tremendous competitor, and I would certainly like to congratulate him," said Engle, who is a regular exhibitor at HITS Saugerties during its spring and summer horse shows. "We were teammates a few times, and one thing I can say about Richard is that he always takes a great shot."
Spooner, who idolized show-jumping legend Hap Hansen when he was an up-and-coming rider beat the veteran to the 100th win mark. Hansen, who has been sitting on 98 for a few years, watched from the VIP Oasis Club and was the first to congratulate Spooner. "I was actually hoping Hap would get there first," said Spooner. "He is a great competitor, and he just might get to 150 wins before I do."
"Richard is a great guy and an even better rider," said Hansen. "He has some great horses right now so he might end up with 200 wins."
After his victory, Spooner was honored in the VIP Oasis Club with a host of gifts, including a special cake prepared by Oasis Club Chef Ric Orlando and champagne. HITS' Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock led the champagne toast to Spooner and said "Here's to Richard and another 100 wins. It's hard work, and he makes it look easy."
Friday's $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix was a one-round competition for the fastest time. Spooner and Ezrah were 23rd to go in the class and stopped the clocks in 62.260. He had the ride for S & B LLC Corp. Pratt, who is Spooner's assistant rider, was second aboard his mount Airtime, but he couldn't edge out his boss. Spooner was also third aboard Lisa Miles' Black Cherry.
"I knew Richard was going to win today," said Pratt. "When the pressure is on, Richard rises to the top. I know it was on his mind, and I am glad he got it done today."
Canadian Olympian John Pearce was third and fourth aboard Archie Bunker and Chianto, respectively. Spooner is now two-for-two in grand prix events at HITS Thermal in 2008. During the all new DC Premiere he won the top prize aboard Gerry the Grey. In Friday's featured class, he got the best of 32 other pairs and grabbed $7,500 in prize money. Even more prize money will be on the line on Sunday during the $75,000 EMO Grand Prix.
With his latest victory, Spooner earned some more valuable points towards the $200,000 Invitational Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, March 16, during the all new Championship Week at HITS Thermal. The top 30 pairs based on prize money won on the 2008 HITS Desert Circuit will be invited to compete in the class.
Also on Friday at HITS Thermal was Spa Day, courtesy of La Quinta Resort & Club. The event took place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. just outside of the VIP Oasis Club. Exhibitors were treated to mini massages and free samples from the world-famous spa.
The 2008 HITS Desert Circuit resumed on Tuesday, January 22. The circuit will continue for three consecutive weeks of shows, followed by an off week, February 11-17. Then competition at HITS Thermal returns on Tuesday, February 19, for four consecu