INDIO, CA (March 9, 2001)--Today was the last of six $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix classes to be contested at this year's Indio Desert Circuit, and Richard Spooner, 31, of Burbank, California, closed out his Ariat tour by taking first place with Robinson and second place with Southshore. Spooner won four of the six $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix competitions this circuit--three with Robinson and one with Bradford owned by Tracey Kenly and Kenly Farms. The win today brings Spooner's total Grand Prix victories at Indio to five--he also won the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix with Southshore on January 28. Spooner took home $7,500 for Robinson's owner, the Half Moon Bay Investment Group and $5,000 for Southshore's owner, Eldorado 29.
Conrad Homfeld, of Southampton, New York, designed today's course for the field of 43 entries. Homfeld, an Olympic Team Gold and Individual Silver Medallist, is a three-time winner of American Horse Shows Association's Mr. & Mrs. William C. Cox Memorial Trophy for Show Jumping Course Designer of the Year. Homfeld describes his style of course design as 'balanced'. "There shouldn't be one point on course that is the whole course," he explained, adding that scope, technicality, height and width are all components that have equal importance. For Round One, Homfeld built a 13-jump course that included a double at Fence No. 3 and a triple at Fence No. 12. Time Allowed was set at 81 seconds. Ten horses had clear rounds and moved on to the jump-off. Three of the clears were Spooner's and two were Nichole Shahinian-Simpson's.
For the tiebreaker, Homfeld built an eight-obstacle short course that ended with a double combination. Time Allowed was 49 seconds. Spooner was first in the order of go and was clean and fast with Southshore, setting the pace at 41.694. Tracy Fenney, 36, of Flower Mound, Texas, riding Grace, the duo that won this class on February 23, were fifth on course and had the next fault-free trip, but at 44.289, they couldn't beat the time and finished in third place, taking home $3,500 for owner Hidden Lake Farm. Spooner and Robinson were next to go and managed to beat Southshore's time by more than a second, clocking in clean at 40.618 for the win. Eighth in the order was Nicole Shahinian-Simpson riding El Campeon's Jo Jo who gave the leader a run for his money with a clear round in 45.718, but had to settle for fourth place and $2,250 for owner El Campeon Farms.
"First and second place, wow!" said Spooner. "Southshore was blistering fast. At home I've been practicing doing two in the line and then doing one in the line, doing one in the line and then two in the line. I did that a lot this winter--worked on riding into a combination on a platform and allowing that platform to set up the horse's gait inside the combination. I was actually dying to try doing the one with Robinson. I knew that I could go as fast as Southshore, maybe a little bit slower because I knew I had two seconds to spare--obviously if you don't slow down before, in the middle, and after the two-stride then that's a good two- or three-second advantage. That's how I won it. Southshore was great but I let him do two in that last line. He's younger than Robinson. He's a tremendously exceptional horse, but the experience of having a horse that's 13 years old certainly helps out in that type of situation. That was a fantastic course. It wasn't that big but it was technical enough and the Time Allowed was tight so you had to hurry up--you couldn't lollygag around."
Chris Corn, Ariat National Catalog Manager, was part of the awards ceremony and presented Spooner with an engraved silver pitcher and an embroidered cooler. "Ariat is very proud to sponsor the Grand Prix," said Corn. "It's very exciting for us. It's a very exciting time for our company and it's very nice to be associated with world-class riders and wonderful horses. It's a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to the community for all the support that they've given to us as a brand as well. We're just delighted to be here."
JCR Sports Productions of Foothill Ranch, California, taped the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix. Airdates will be available at www.tvshowjumping.com
$25,000 ARIAT GRAND PRIX, March 9, 2001