INDIO, CA (January 26, 2001)¾Richard Spooner, 31, from Burbank, California, riding Robinson, won the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix in Indio, California, today--the first Grand Prix of the Indio Desert Circuit and the first of six Ariat Grand Prix classes to be held at the six-week circuit. Leopoldo Palacios from Caracas, Venezuela, designed the course. Mr. Palacios was the course designer at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Twenty-seven riders made up the field for Round One; four had clear rounds and moved on to the Jump-Off. Spooner was one of two riders to go double-clear, and won by 0.875 seconds. Spooner was awarded the blue ribbon, an embroidered cooler, an engraved silver trophy, and $7,500 for Robinson's owner, the Half Moon Bay Investment Group.
Before the Grand Prix, Mr. Palacios commented that he designed the course using the same style he used at the Olympics. "I use my same style wherever I go. The difference is the material, the size, and perhaps I'll make it a little stronger in one place than another. Normally on the first day of the show I start with an easy course and observe the level of the riders. I make the courses harder and harder and finish on Sunday with the hardest course." This is the tenth anniversary of the Indio Desert Circuit and Leopoldo has designed courses here every year. "In Indio, there is always a very good quality of horses and riders. This year, we have the biggest show ever for opening week. The horses are fresh and I need to take care of them. We have a lot of young horses, and these horses will jump seven weeks here, so it is difficult to start with a very hard grand prix.
" Today's Round One course had Time Allowed set at 94 seconds to clear 13 jumps including a double at Fence 5 and a triple at Fence 12. For the Jump-Off, Mr. Palacios repeated the first six fences and created space for a gallop to the last element, Fence 13, with Time Allowed set at 55 seconds. Steve Bond, Hidden Hills, California, riding his Pablo was first in the Jump-Off order, but with three faults for a refusal and two time faults, he finished fourth. Spooner was second to go and took full advantage of the final sprint, with Robinson flattening his ears during the fly to the timers, showing his trademark aerodynamic style for a fault-free 40.257 finish. Duncan McFarlane, San Ramon, California, on Kathie Cheatham's Eezy, was hot on Spooner's heels, taking the inside option at Fence 5, but had to settle for second place with a clear round in 41.132. Last to jump was Ray Texel, Malibu California, on Fleur owned by Beverly Hills Equestrian Park, LLC. Texel was fast at 41.053, but had a rail at Fence 4 for third place.
Spooner's victory brings his career total to 34 Grand Prix wins. He has won the $150,000 Grand Prix of the Desert at Indio three out of the past four years. "It feels great," said Spooner about today's win. "This year I decided to try something a little different from what I did the last few years. Previously, I waited to prepare the horses until about a week before I came, then I started them back into competition very slowly. This year I started about a month and a half earlier with the goal of getting the grand prix classes in early rather than later. I hope to strike later also. I want to see if I can keep the platform higher for longer.
" Four of the six Sunday Grand Prix at Indio are qualifiers for the 2001 World Cup Finals that will be held in Goteberg, Sweden, April 12-16, 2001. Spooner is aiming for a slot in the World Cup Finals¾an annual indoor championship event. "Southshore would be my World Cup Finals horse. Robinson likes it outdoors better than indoors. Southshore is good indoors so Southshore would be my World Cup horse. I have a lot of work to do because I'm in fourth place now and they only take three. I've got to be sharp here for the next five weeks." The three riders ahead of Spooner in the West Coast World Cup Standings are Rich Fellers, Ray Texel, and Michael Endicott--all competitors at Indio Desert Circuit.
Spooner rode five horses in today's class, but doesn't plan to compete them all on the same day again. "On Sundays I should only have four. On most Fridays after this I'll have two or three. It's the first week and I wanted to get them in the ring and just get them in gear--get them used to the surroundings. Some of them haven't jumped for three or four months at a horse show so I wanted to get them in and get them a little experience. Obviously, of course, Robinson didn't need it, but the other horses definitely needed it. They were good, but I was glad that I did it."
Having jumped many of Mr. Palacios' courses over the years, Spooner was familiar with the light, airy design. "This wasn't a very difficult course," said Spooner. "There were only four clears out of 27 starters but it definitely wasn't one of Leopoldo's more technical courses. It wasn't that scopey, it wasn't that technical, but it was very good for a Friday Grand Prix. You couldn't build it too big, but come Sunday it should be a legitimate track." However, Spooner had his own difficulties on course. "Duncan would have gotten me if it hadn't been for that one run to the last jump because I dropped my stirrups. I didn't ride very well to the second jump in the jump-off and I got stuck in the corner. I lost time then a little bit so I had to add that. Then he crawled over the second jump, which really cost me about a second-and-a-half. Then at the narrow I got jumped loose because he jumped it so high and I popped my stirrups. I had to take about a half-second to three-quarters of a second longer to get around to the combination even though I went inside. Duncan also went inside. I knew I was about two seconds behind on the fly to the last jump and that's where I had my choice to make it up."
Leopoldo said he was happy with the circuit's first Grand Prix. "It was good. It's what I expected. Everybody was happy. There were no complaints and in this sport that's very good. Now I know who is here and how I can build for Sunday. It will be harder. I will still wait and see who enters, then I'll make the final decisions for the course. I don't want to make it too hard so that no one can jump it. I don't want any horses to get hurt. But it will be harder than this one. It all depends on who will be in it."
On Sunday, January 28, the highlight of Indio Desert Circuit I is the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix starting at 1pm.
$25,000 ARIAT GRAND PRIX, January 26, 2001
Indio Desert Circuit I, Indio, California
Course Designer: Leopoldo Palacios
Pl# Horse Rider Owner Prize Money Rd 1/ Rd 2 Faults/J-O Time
1 Robinson Richard Spooner Half Moon Bay Investment Group $7,500 0/0-40.257
2 Eezy Duncan McFarlane Kathie Cheatham $5,000 0/0-41.132
3 Fleur Ray Texel Beverly Hills Equestrian Park, LLC $3,500 0/4-41.053
4 Pablo Steve Bond Steve Bond $2,250 0/5-56.973
5 Wisby D Michelle Parker Cross Creek Farms $1,500 4/NA
6 Incento Richard Spooner Oscany Inc $1,125 4/NA
7 Mr. Pacific Molly Warrington Molly Warrington $875 4/NA
8 Libra Jenni Martin Karim Ghaibi $725 4/NA
9 Litente Ronnie Freeman Marlborough Corp. $650 4/NA
10 Bradford Richard Spooner Tracey Kenly/Kenly Farms $625 4/NA
11 El Campeons Ado Annie Will Smith El Campeon Farms $625 8/NA
12 Royal Touch Bjorn Ikast Clara/Bjorn Ikast $625 8/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 27
Class Prize Money: $25,000
HITS Indio Desert 2001 Show Dates:
Circuit I January 24-28
Circuit II January 31-February 4
Circuit III February 7-11
Off Week February 14 - 18
Circuit IV February 21-25
Circuit V February 28-March 4
Circuit VI March 7-11
$25,000 Ariat Grand Prix Every Friday 1pm
$50,000 EMO Grand Prix Sunday, January 28 1pm
$50,000 Cosequin® Grand Prix Sunday, February 4 1pm
$75,000 Bayer/USET Grand Prix of Indio
Presented by HorseCity.com Sunday, February 11 1pm
$50,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix Sunday, February 25 1pm
$50,000 HITS Grand Prix Sunday, March 4 1pm
$50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge
Presented by The Chronicle of the Horse Sunday, March 11 8am
$150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert Sunday, March 11 2pm
Special Day Events:
Kids Day Presented by Fox Kids Club and KDFX Sunday, February 11 11am-1pm Heritage Palms Seniors Day Presented by KESQ TV3 & Palm Springs Follies Sunday, March 4 11am-1pm
Fiesta Day Sunday, March 11 11am-1pm