Rich Fellers and Flexible Capture Their Third Grand Prix Win at the HITS Desert Circuit

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Thermal, CA - February 25, 2011 - Action at the Desert Circuit kicked into high gear on Thursday night as HITS welcomed Stuart Meikle, Director of Equine Marketing for Pfizer Animal Health, and his team, along with several leading veterinarians for an exciting night of show jumping in the indoor arena at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California.

The group was treated to a thrilling class as Rich Fellers (Wilsonville, Oregon) and Flexible, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, continued to prove why they are the hottest horse-and-rider combination at the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit when they topped the field in the $31,000 Strongid C 2X Welcome Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.

Last night’s triumph was the third of the circuit for the decorated duo, as they were the best out of the 39 starters to challenge International Course Designer Marina Azevedo’s (Sao Paulo, Brazil) first round course, and the 13 teams that advanced to the jump-off.

"This horse continues to amaze me," said Fellers. "I can't express how thankful I am to have such a great horse to ride."

In 2008, Fellers and Flexible won three of the four FEI World Cup Qualifiers held at HITS Thermal which fueled their journey to the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in Sweden where they placed second. "Flexible loves to show indoors and he proved that again tonight," added Fellers.

Two trips into the first round, it was Canadian Olympian John Pearce (Bermuda Dunes, California) that got the party started posting the first clear effort aboard Forest View Farm’s Chianto. Just two trips later it was Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes (Carlsbad, California) riding his own Tomba that ensured the crowd there would be a jump-off with international flavor.

At the end of the first round, 13 talented horse-and-rider teams representing six different nations advanced to Azevedo’s fast track as the crowd in the indoor arena, including a group of representatives from Pfizer Animal Health, settled in for what was sure to be an exciting horse race over fences.

“I thought 13 clear was a good number for the Thursday Grand Prix,” said Azevedo. “It’s a welcome class and a chance for me to see how the horses are jumping. On Saturday night for the FEI World Cup Qualifier it will be more challenging.”

It would take three trips before the jump-off produced its first clear round. Kate Levy (Wellington, Florida) was the first of six teams to go double clear when she set The Great American Time to Beat aboard her own Lirving de Volsin in 34.96 seconds. When the class was complete, they landed in sixth place.

“I wanted to come out and kill two birds with one stone,” said Levy. “I came out to get a jump start on qualifying for the Pfizer Million and show in the two FEI World Cup Qualifiers that are remaining out here and, hopefully, earn a spot on the team.”

The leading time lasted just one round thanks to Team Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Westlake Village, California) who rode Richard Michaels’ Kismet 50. They posted a clear round in 33.97 seconds to take the lead; however, at the end of the class they finished in fifth place.

Mark Watring (Thousand Oaks, California) and Horseworks Etc.’s Green Sleeps Vioco pulled the hat trick and made it three clear rounds in a row when they made it home without dropping any rails in 33.31seconds to push their way into the lead. When all was said and done, they placed fourth in the class.

The excitement continued as Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano were the next team to show and posted the fourth clear trip in a row, crossing the timers in 33.24 seconds to move to the top of the leader board. They placed third at the conclusion of the class.

It would take two more rounds before another horse-and-rider team would make it home clear. This time it was Canadian Olympian John Anderson aboard Foxdale Farm’s Terrific. They were fast and clear coming home in 33.07 seconds to take the lead with just four trips left. At the end of the class, they had to settle for second place and $6,820 in prize money.

After another three rounds, Anderson and Terrific held onto the lead with just one trip remaining in the jump-off. Fellers and Flexible saved the best for last when they made the dash for the cash in 31.86 seconds to capture the blue ribbon, as the entire crowd in the indoor arena came to their feet for a loud and boisterous standing ovation.

The Pfizer Animal Health team had the distinct honor of sitting with legendary United States Chef d’Equipe George Morris, who provided expert commentary throughout the class for the sponsors.

After the class, Meikle had nothing but praise for the competition, the athletes and their hosts. “We had about 15 veterinarians and representatives here,” he said. “We all had a wonderful time. Personally, I grew up in the United Kingdom and used to watch show jumping on TV with my grandmother, so tonight brought back some wonderful memories for me. ”

Action for High-Performance Riders continues tomorrow when the $50,000 Purina Mills CSI-W Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, takes the stage in the indoor arena. A packed house is expected to line the building, including a sold out Charles Owen VIP Club. On Sunday, action shifts outdoors to the Strongid C 2X Stadium when the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, wraps up Desert Circuit IV.  

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. HITS will once again offer the most innovative weekend in show jumping history in 2011 when it hosts the second annual Pfizer Million and the inaugural Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final, September 10-11, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!  

$31,000 Strongid C 2X Welcome Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health

1 Flexible Harry and Mollie Chapman Rich Fellers  $9,300 0 0 31.86
2 Terrific Foxdale Farm  John Anderson  $6,820 0 0 33.07
3 Cantano El Dorado 29  Susan Hutchison $4,030 0 0 33.24
4 Green Sleeps Vioco  Horseworks etc, Inc. Mark Watring  $2,480 0 0 33.31
5 Kismet 50  Richard Michaels  Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum  $1,860 0 0 33.97
6 Lirving de Volsin  Kate Levy  Kate Levy  $1,550 0 0 34.96
7 Chianto Forest View Farm  John Pearce  $1,240 0 4 30.12
8 Katie Riddle  Rancho Corazon  John McConnell  $930 0 4 34,40
9 Lou Bega  Leone Equestrians  Jill Humphrey  $930 0 4 38.51
10 Caballo Helen McNaught  Helen McNaught  $620 0 8 38.75
11 Mr. Whoopy  Simone Coxe  Duncan McFarlane  $620 0 8 34.21
12 Tomba Eduardo Menezes  Eduardo Menezes  $620 0 8 38.03

Photo Credits: Rich Fellers and Flexible capture the $31,000 Strongid C 2X Welcome Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal. © Flying Horse Photography.
HITS' Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock is joined by Stuart Meikle and Kate Russo from Pfizer Animal Health in congratulating Rich Fellers and Flexible after winning the $31,000 Strongid C 2X Welcome Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal.  © Flying Horse Photography.