2010 HITS Winter Circuits Prove to Be a Popular Choice for Exhibitors and International Show Jumpers Join Exhibitors; Excitement Building for the Qualifiers for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix
RELEASE: December 15, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Jennifer Wood
With the 2010 season just weeks away, HITS, Inc., is preparing for full horse show circuits in Thermal, CA, and Ocala, FL. The 2010 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal will have six weeks of competition from January 26 to March 14, while the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will run two non-rated and six rated shows from January 19 to March 21.
One of the best attributes of both venues is the availability of permanent stalls that are situated on the main show grounds in close proximity to the show rings. In Ocala, stall sales are nearly full, while in Thermal, thanks to the new six-week schedule and discounted circuit rates, stalls are also selling very quickly. In addition to permanent stalls, both venues also feature roomy tent stalls constructed of wood and steel dividers that are clean and safe for horses, and they have been very popular since their debut in Saugerties two years ago.
The HITS Desert Circuit is excited to have many international riders joining them this year in Thermal, including new faces from Mexico and old favorites from Canada. The show jumpers will have more to be excited about this year as every grand prix in Thermal and Ocala is a qualifier for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, which is scheduled for September 12, 2010, in Saugerties, NY. The finale event of the HITS Desert Circuit is the $300,000 Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Sunday, March 14. There are also four World Cup qualifiers held in the popular indoor arena in Thermal. In Ocala, the finale is the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group, on Sunday, March 21.
"The response to the shows has been very strong," said HITS CEO and President Tom Struzzieri. "Our circuit pricing packages that we put in place are making it easier for people to plan ahead. We've seen virtually no attrition in Ocala, and in Thermal the permanent stalls are again a popular choice thanks to the six-week schedule. We've heard from many trainers who are happy to now have their entire barn together in permanent stalls instead of splitting their group between the tents and the permanents."
Guillermo Obligado, who is based in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, at Woodgrove Farm, has been a customer at the HITS Desert Circuit for many years. He brings an average of 15-20 horses every year and has clients along with sale horses. Obligado keeps his horses in the permanent stalls in Thermal. "The stalls are big at 12x12; each stall has rubber mats and electric. There is also a big barn aisle. There are two rooms in each barn for people to use as a tack room that are air-conditioned and have washer/dryer connections," he described. "With the discounted circuit prices, people can afford to get permanent stalls for sure. It's different from a regular horse show!"
Obligado has represented his home country of Argentina in Nations Cup competition and at the 2004 Olympic Games, 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, and 2006 FEI World Cup Finals. He looks forward to the show jumping action in Thermal and was excited with HITS' mission to encourage riders from Mexico to show at this year's circuit.
"It's always better when we have people from Mexico, Canada, and more, and we would love to have Europeans too," he said. "When there are more people, the competition is better, the ambience is better. I was very happy that HITS (representatives) went to Mexico to promote the show. That is always very good. Every year it's getting better."
He added, "For us people from California, it's in our backyard, and we want to promote this show. HITS is working hard to get people to go to Thermal, and with their very good customer service there and increased money in the classes, it's working. I think it'll be a fun circuit."
Penny Carpenter, a local California equestrian, has served as a judge, steward, and FEI steward at Thermal. She noted, "I've enjoyed watching the facility evolve. I went over to the Thermal grounds the other day to see what was happening and was I ever surprised. The grounds look more established, the landscaping has matured a great deal (especially around the jumper rings), there appears to be more paved areas, and the grounds look manicured and inviting."
She went on to say, "Thermal looks ready for a show even though the first show is about six weeks away. The grounds are greatly aesthetically improved. I think that both returning exhibitors and new ones will be favorably impressed."
"We are expecting a great winter," Struzzieri added. "Certainly the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix is creating a lot of interest, as riders are targeting our winter shows to get a head start on their qualifying. In California we'll have plenty of new faces, which will add some excitement. We'll miss Ashlee Bond as she will be focused on earning a spot on the WEG Team. We wish her well and look forward to welcoming her back next year. In the meantime, it should be interesting to see who rises to the occasion in Thermal to win her first place checks! There will also be some new faces in Ocala eager to get a piece of the Grand Prix action, and from what I hear, our long-time Ocala customers are looking forward to the challenge!"
Steve Bond of Little Valley Farm, who is Ashlee's father and trainer, will miss their friends in Thermal this year. He said, "We wish everybody well, and we'll miss everyone in California. This is the first time we've never been to the HITS circuit before. I've been at every one since its inception at Indio. It's a change for us, but with our program, and trying to qualify for the WEG Team, we didn't have an option."
Bond was one of many West Coast equestrians who were hoping that the bid for the WEG Show Jumping Trials presented by HITS would be accepted. "The package that Tom put together and the money offered was impressive," he pointed out. "There were several options that might have worked, and riding for that kind of money would have been nice. But, those are beyond my control, and we go where we have to. We certainly wish everyone a great season and show experience, and we plan to show at Thermal next year."
In Ocala, there are some very unique options for permanent stalls. About half of the barns are right in the middle of the action, close to the show rings on the heart of the grounds. The other barns are nestled in quieter areas of the grounds, making then almost like mini-farms. Professional trainer David Jennings has opted for one of these barns for his winter season. Jennings, who is based at Full Circle Farm, in Cleveland, OH, takes advantage of the opportunity to arrive in Ocala early for the winter.
This will be Jennings' third year in Ocala, and he is leasing a barn from HITS that is on property just across a small road from the main show grounds. He has already moved his horses, approximately 15 during the winter, to Ocala to avoid the cold weather up north.
"It was really nice of HITS to allow us to come down early, and it really works out great for us," Jennings remarked. "We love having this farm here. It's nice to be tucked away a bit, with not as much people and horse traffic, and it's nice to get the horses away from the show for a little bit. We have paddocks for turnout, and we can school our green horses here and not have to be ringside."
Jennings enjoys the atmosphere in Ocala and appreciates the improvements made to the facility over the years. "It's very laid back here and very nice. More and more people are finding out just how nice a show it is," he said. "The footing has improved every year, and they put in a brand new grand prix ring two years ago. It's a great atmosphere and HITS has a lot to offer; I just love it."
Struzzieri is never surprised when he hears people rave about Post Time Farm. "Ocala is a special place; it's probably our most unique property," he said. "The atmosphere there is comfortable, and the community surrounding the show grounds is incredibly horse-friendly and very supportive. We see great crowds for our grand prix classes on Sunday. It's nice to have that kind of support for the riders, owners, and sponsors."
The HITS Arizona Winter Circuit is getting its share of buzz thanks to the six qualifying grand prix classes for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and new AA-rating for the final week of the season. The "Arizona regulars" are eager to make their way to Tucson for six consecutive weeks of competition. All stalls at the Pima County Fairgrounds, where the HITS Arizona circuit takes over each year from February through March, are permanent and located on the main show grounds, providing exhibitors a relaxed and convenient trip to the competition rings.
Entries for the HITS Desert Circuit must be received by January 6. Entries for the first two weeks in Ocala close on January 6, while entries for the rated shows close on January 20. Entries for HITS Arizona close on Tuesday, January 19. Prize lists and entry blanks for all three HITS Winter Circuits are available online. To keep on track with the updates or to request a copy of the winter circuit prize lists, please visit www.HitsShows.com
Announcements on special classes, judges, course designers, prize money, and more will be made regularly for all of the HITS Horse Show circuits. To learn of the latest news, please become a fan of HITS' page on Facebook and sign up to receive HITS' Twitter updates.
For more information on qualifying for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, please visit www.hitsshows.com/nyusgpl/index.html