HITS Desert Circuit Offers Complete Jumper Schedule and High Performance Classes
RELEASE: December 3, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Jennifer Wood
The HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, CA, is one of the premiere show facilities in North America and is host to the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit. Held over eight weeks of competition from January 20 to March 22, the HITS Desert Circuit is the only show circuit that offers four World Cup qualifiers for high performance show jumping athletes. As part of the high-performance schedule, HITS hosts two grand prix events each week of the circuit, including the four World Cup classes. The highlight of the HITS Desert Circuit continues to be the $150,000 Grand Prix of the Desert, which will close out the season on Sunday, March 22.
In addition to hosting more World Cup qualifiers than any other single circuit, the HITS Desert Circuit is also the only winter show circuit in the country that offers the opportunity for riders to compete in a large, outdoor ring as well as an indoor arena for jumper classes. The indoor arena was originally added to the property for the World Cup qualifiers. The indoor arena was such a success in 2008 that this season HITS is going to offer more classes and special events for other divisions in that ring. During World Cup weeks, the $25,000 FEI Grand Prix and the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifiers will both be held indoors. Additionally, several of the 3'6" Medals and some of the traditional "Friday night" classes will be held indoors too.
Richard Spooner, one of the top show jumpers in America and all-time leading money winner on the HITS Desert Circuit, has competed at the Desert Circuit since its inception in 1992. He believes that the opportunity to show in an indoor arena for the qualifiers helps prepare riders and horses if they make it to the World Cup Finals.
"The footing in the grand prix ring is conducive to good jumping. Thermal is an important circuit," he explained. "It's closer, time-wise, to the World Cup Finals than a lot of our other events. You're able to see the horses that are performing well at that time and see if they will be successful. It's good to see which horses are hot. The indoor arena helps get you into indoor mode, to ride the jumps immediately out of the turn; you do more technical courses than on the big field."
HITS is expecting a strong roster of both new and returning high-performance stars this season at Thermal. Olympic Gold medalist Will Simpson will return to Thermal and will be joined by his teammate and first-time Desert Circuit exhibitor McLain Ward. Angel Karolyi, who placed second behind Ward in the $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix at the Washington International Horse Show, and Mexico's Bjorn Ikast will be two new faces at the HITS Desert Circuit. Canada's Jonathan Asselin will also be back in Thermal this year as well as other West Coast stars, including Joie Gatlin, Jill Humphrey, Rich Fellers, John Pearce and Canada's Olympic Silver medalist Jill Henselwood, just to name a few.
In addition to high-performance events, there are 14 non-nominated jumper sections, starting with Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 and offering multiple age groups for children's and adult jumpers. There are also low child/adult, modified junior, modified amateur and even pony jumpers. For the nominated jumpers, there are 10 divisions, such as the Hidden Creek Farm Level 6 Jumpers and divisions for low and high junior and amateur jumpers.
A great range of jumper classics are offered weekly for competitors, like the Marshall & Sterling Pony Jumper Classic and $2,500 Marshall & Sterling Children's and Adult Jumper Classics. Children's/Adult Jumpers also have a regular $1,000 classic, and there are $1,000 and $4,500 Modified Junior/Amateur Jumper Classics each week.
Every week, there is a PCHA Jimmy Williams Classic for jumpers held at the level 7 height. The prize money ranges from $7,500 in weeks one, five, seven, and eight, to $15,000 in the non-World Cup weeks when the class will be the feature event of the Su