Thermal, CA - February 3, 2012 - Grand Prix action got underway at Desert Circuit II yesterday as West Coast veteran Rich Fellers piloted Chapman & Fellers’ Colgan Cruise to a win in the first of the circuit’s FEI classes, the $32,000 HITS Desert Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. This week’s Desert Classic was the first of four $32,000 kick-off classes for High-Performance riders.
Course Designer Bernardo Cabral of Lisbon, Portugal posed a 12-effort course to 22 horse-and-rider pairs that saw nine move on to the second round. Fellers and Colgan Cruise were one of nine to advance and one of only two to go double clear. “It was a nice technical course and just right for the first FEI Grand Prix,” commented Fellers.
After four trips, Fellers posted the first clear round in 44.48 seconds. Colgan Cruise was purchased by the Fellers and Chapman families with high hopes, but admittedly surprised her owners in this class. “She is a young, up-and-coming Grand Prix horse and I wasn't expecting much before the Circuit started. But I guess I was fooled,” said Fellers. “It was my first Grand Prix class of 2012 and it’s nice to come out on top.”
Fellers sat pretty until Michelle Spadone of Lake Worth, Florida challenged his lead in the last go of the jump-off aboard Redfield Farm’s Coco. She mastered the course, but couldn’t find the speed and posted a time of 51.79 seconds to clinch second place and ultimately present Fellers with the win.
Representing the fastest of the four faulters, Mark Watring of Thousand Oaks, California rode Horseworks etc Inc’s Green Sleeps Vioco to a third place finish. First to ride in the second round, Watring was out for the blue with one of the faster rounds of the day, but a rail down at the last fence of the course offered him a tough break.
Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ontario has seen her share of success so far at HITS Thermal and continued that tradition with a fourth-place finish yesterday. She rode Brian Gingras’ IV Ever to a four fault round in 43.80 seconds. Jill Humphrey of Sacramento, California rounded out the top five with a four fault jump-off round in 47.39 seconds in the irons of Leone Equestrians Inc.’s Kaskaya.
High-performance competition continues at HITS Thermal this week with the $53,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix indoors on Saturday evening and the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix on Sunday. Fellers started his week off with a blue ribbon and hopes to continue in the same manner, riding mounts in both remaining Grand Prix classes. “I will be showing Flexible on Saturday night and McGuiness on Sunday,” said Fellers. “I have three different Grand Prix horses for each of the big classes and that's kind of nice.”
As Grand Prix actions heats up on the West Coast, riders have turned their attention to qualifying for the return of the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson this fall. Once again, to make an appearance in the 2012 Pfizer Million, riders will need to bank eight qualifying classes to become eligible, and then the top 40 riders based on money won on their leading horse will earn their spot in the line-up for the class.
$32,000 HITS Desert Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
Place Horse Owner Rider Prize $ Rd 1 Faults JO Faults JO Time
1 Colgan Cruise Chapman & Fellers Rich Fellers $10,560 0 0 44.48
2 Coco Redfield Farm Michelle Spadone $6,400 0 0 51.79
3 Green Sleeps Vioco Horseworks etc Inc Mark Watring $4,800 0 4 43.65
4 IV Ever Brian Gingras Jill Henselwood $3,200 0 4 43.80
5 Kaskaya Leone Equestrians Inc Jill Humphrey $1,920 0 4 47.39
6 Cassiato Oak Park Group LLC Harley Brown $1,440 0 4 47.78
7 George Brian Gingras Jill Henselwood $960 0 4 48.17
8 Taunus Prentiss Partners Francie Steinwedell-Carvin $800 0 8 42.78
9 Socrates De Midos Cross Creek Farms, Inc. Michelle Parker $640 0 12 46.69
10 Xel Ha Tula Pinnella Michelle Parker $640 1 - -
11 Revenge Shelley Fellers Shelley Fellers $320 1 - -
12 Asb Conquistador Signe Ostby Karl Cook $320 4 - -
Photos: Rich Fellers races through the course aboard Colgan Cruise in Friday's $32,000 Desert Classic, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. Rich Fellers and Colgan Cruise are joined for the awards by co-owners Harry and Mollie Chapman, as well as Tony Hitchcock, Susen Shields from Pfizer Animal Health and Lisa Engel. Photos by © Flying Horse Photography.