Saugerties, NY - With just two months to go before the rings open at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California, preparations are in full force for the Desert Circuit’s much-anticipated 20th Anniversary season. The six-week circuit will kick off on Tuesday, January 25 and run until Sunday, March 13 when the season finale $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach, will conclude what is sure to be the best season yet in Thermal.
The HITS Desert Circuit has been a mainstay of West Coast competition since the early 1990s. After outgrowing its home in Indio where the show was held for 15 years, HITS built an awe-inspiring show-jumping facility on a spacious property that comfortably houses stabling for thousands of horses, 12 competition rings, endless RV parking and many other horse show amenities you won’t find anywhere else in the United States.
The HITS Desert Circuit prize list boasts a wide array of classes and divisions that are paramount to the HITS horse show experience. Exciting new additions to the schedule have West Coast equestrians abuzz, including the six Devoucoux qualifiers for the jaw-dropping $500,000 HITS 3’3” Hunter Prix Final and the 16 qualifiers for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, which will both be held at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York the weekend of September 10-11.
While equestrians are busy making their way through the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit prize list and making their winter show plans, HITS is fast at work preparing the Thermal show grounds for what’s sure to be its biggest circuit since the new property debuted in 2007.
A major new landscaping upgrade that brings two beautifully decorated grass berms to the north and west borders of Jumper 1 is nearly complete. With elevated ringside views, bench seating, and lovely desert landscaping, Jumper 1 is a transformed competition ring that will serve to better prepare riders and horses for their move up to the Grand Prix arena.
“We’ve had great success making similar enhancements to our Jumper 1 rings in Saugerties and Ocala this past season,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. “I’m really pleased with how the design of that revamp is coming along in Thermal and I believe it will be something that the exhibitors who show in that ring will really appreciate this year.”
As part of its continued landscaping plans, HITS has planted nearly 1,000 new trees, shrubs and flowers throughout the property, while the existing plantings have continued to mature and transform what was once a blank canvas of desert acreage into a virtual oasis that is unlike any other horse show property in the world. Beautiful views are endless at the HITS Desert Circuit Horse Park thanks to the majestic Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains which surround the property on all four sides.
Struzzieri was at the property on Saturday and was pleased with the progress being made. “With two months to go we are right on track. The new roadways that run from the barns to the show rings are nearly finished, and the front entrance to the Oasis VIP Pavilion has been utterly transformed. It was particularly nice to see how much everything has matured in the off season. Five years out, I’m really pleased with the way everything has come along. This is by far our most impressive property.”
Exhibitors are sharing in Struzzieri’s enthusiasm for the start of the Circuit, with many trainers making early plans to take advantage of the incredible circuit rates on permanent stabling announced earlier this fall.
"It's really impressive that HITS is making the Desert Circuit more affordable through these great circuit discounts," said trainer Archie Cox, of Lake View Terrace, California. "My entire barn is very excited to compete for the largest amount of Hunter prize money offered at any California circuit. Competing for more than $50,000 in hunter prize money over the course of the circuit and then to have the chance to qualify for the $500,000 Hunter Prix Final is truly extraordinary. Clearly the six weeks of the Desert Circuit offers more prize money than any other hunter jumper show in California."
"As a trainer, I'm also looking forward to having so many great equitation classes take place in the covered arena," said Cox. "It's a great preparation for any indoor show and that arena has the same feel as many of the Finals. We're all really excited for this year's show."
Trainer and High-Performance rider Rich Fellers, who owns and operates Rich Fellers Stables, LLC in Wilsonville, Oregon, is making plans for his return to the HITS Desert Circuit. "It will be great to be back home at the Desert Circuit," said Fellers. "We are all excited about the circuit. We'll have a group for the first half and then our entire barn will be there for the second half of the circuit. I'm looking forward to competing in Jumper 1 with all the changes that have been made there. Having an intermediate jumper ring as a stepping stone from the more standard jumper rings to the Grand Prix ring will be a very nice feature." Fellers will be back in force at the HITS Desert Circuit with his two incredible Grand Prix mounts, Flexible and McGuinness, as well as some younger horses which he hopes to move up to do some of the $25,000 Sunday Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.
Aside from some familiar faces, HITS Thermal is also attracting the attention of several international riders interested in the four World Cup Qualifiers and those 16 Pfizer Million qualifiers. “Word about the Pfizer Million has certainly made its way through the ranks,” says Struzzieri. “There’s been a lot of interest from some very prominent riders in Mexico who have never been here before, so we are excited about the opportunity to welcome them to Thermal this year along with our friends from Canada, who have always supported the show.”
The prize lists for the HITS Desert Circuit has been mailed and is available on-line at HitsShows.com. For more information on the HITS Desert Circuit, or to request a prize list, please visit HitsShows.com or call 845.246.8833.
HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS took the industry to new heights when it hosted the first-ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix on September 12, in Saugerties, New York.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com. Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!
Photos: Looking north, the views from the new berms at the Jumper 1 ring at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. ©HITS Staff.
Looking west, the views from the new berms at the Jumper 1 ring at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. ©HITS Staff.
Newly resurfaced roadways between the Hunter rings and the Hunter schooling rings at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. ©HITS Staff.