INDIO, CA (March 11, 2001)--Richard Spooner riding Southshore had the only double-clear on Conrad Homfeld's $150,000 Ford Grand Prix course today at the Indio Desert Circuit in California, clinching his win in the final event of the six-week circuit for the third year in a row. For most of Round One, it looked like there wasn't going to be a jump-off. Only Hap Hansen on Maloubet, the 20th rider in a field of 39, had a clear first round until Spooner aboard Southshore--the last duo on course--went clean and forced the two-horse jump-off. Hansen had the fastest time in the tiebreaker, but had two rails down, earning second place and $33,000 for Maloubet's owner, Linda Smith. For his first-place finish, Spooner was awarded two embroidered coolers, an engraved silver tray, and $45,000 for Southshore's owner, El Dorado 29. Spooner won six of the 12 Grand Prix classes contested at Indio this year. "I'm batting 500. I won half the Grand Prixes. The funny thing is, before the circuit started one of my staff asked me how many I was going to win and jokingly I said six--then I ended up winning six. It's the most I've ever won at Indio and it's the most I've ever won in a row."
Spooner, 31, of Burbank, California, also received the Indio Desert Circuit Leading Grand Prix Rider Award for most points won in Grand Prix competition at this year's circuit. Barbara Girgenti of Golden Horse Jewelry presented the ring to Spooner after the victory lap. The "Super Bowl" ring of show jumping is a custom-designed 18-carat gold ring with a sapphire center stone surrounded by the words "Indio Desert Circuit" and studded with diamonds.
The $150,000 Ford Grand Prix was the last qualifier on the West Coast for the World Cup Final to be held April 12-16 in Goteborg, Sweden. Based on the four best scores earned in a maximum of eight Grand Prix classes, the riders from the West Coast League who qualified to compete at the World Cup Final are all from California--Dick Carvin of La Canada, Ray Texel of Malibu, and Nicole Shahinian-Simpson of Hidden Valley. These three riders all competed in today's class, but their scores did not change their rankings for the Final. Spooner was already out of contention for the World Cup and did not declare Southshore as his World Cup horse for this event.
Course Designer Homfeld of Southampton, New York, was the course designer for the World Cup Final last year in Las Vegas, but said that his $150,000 Ford Grand Prix course was not a preparation track. "I'm not here to train horses. The riders have to prepare themselves for the World Cup," said Homfeld, adding that his priority was to create a course that reflected the difficulty that a $150,000 class represents. "I like to have the course end at a point that the crowd can appreciate what happens at the finish, and fortunately, the design does work that way. It's liquid. I can change things at the last moment if I see that it's necessary." For Round One, Homfeld built a 14-jump course that included a double at Fence No. 4, another double at Fence No. 8, water at Fence No. 13, and a third double at the last jump, No. 14. Time Allowed was set at 91 seconds. Five horses did not complete the course. Hansen, who rode two horses in Round One, was clear on Maloubet in 88.62. Spooner--who rode four horses in this class--was clear on Southshore in 86.42.
"I thought Conrad had a great course," said Hansen, 49, of Encinitas, California. "He caught a lot of different horses at a lot of different places. It was technical and it was scopey. He did a very good job for the big class at the end of our circuit." How did Hap feel when it looked like he had the win without a jump-off? "I was feeling pretty darn good. That was nice."
"The whole course was tricky," said Spooner, describing Round One. "The last line was a killer. You had two large oxers--the first of which was white rails--and then a liverpool underneath the oxer, and then you had four or five strides to the next oxer, then very tight two-strides to a big vertical--very airy right at the end of the course, so it wasn't so very easy." How did he feel going in as the last rider on course against only one clear? "The only pressure that you feel is pressure that you put on yourself," said Spooner. "There is no other pressure, so you have to just make sure that you maintain a cool head and just do your job out there. If you ever feel a little bit of pressure then just get mean, don't get nervous."
For the jump-off, Conrad built an eight-obstacle course that included a double combination. Time Allowed was set at 53 seconds. Hansen was first to go and had two rails down for a total of eight faults in 52.30. "My horse had sat for quite a long time," said Hansen, adding, "and I knew Richard is really fast, so I tried to go a little faster than I would have liked to. The strategy didn't work just right." Hansen has won 91 Grand Prix classes in his career--adding the 91st victory at this year's Indio when he won the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix on February 2.
Spooner was fault-free in the jump-off on Southshore in 52.74 seconds for the win. He was in the warm-up ring with Hansen before the jump-off, and at the in-gate for Hansen's ride on the short course. "I watched Hap go and that made it easier," said Spooner. "He had two rails down and I knew then that the key was having a nice brisk pace. Sometimes if you go in and you try to dillydally around, the horse senses that something is up and doesn't perform the way he should. So I still went in and gave it a crisp ride, a nice gallop--although I swung out a little bit going into the combination so that I didn't risk catastrophe. He jumped fantastic. Once I jumped the second to the last jump, I knew my only enemy was the clock since Hap had eight faults, so I went ahead and just ran to the last jump. Even if I had it down, it wouldn't have mattered."
This is the fourth time that Richard Spooner has won the $150,000 class at Indio. He won it in 1997 with Kirk, was fourth in 1998 aboard Cosino, he won it with Robinson in 1999 and 2000, and now in 2001 with Southshore. "The funny thing is, I've won the big class four out of the last five years, but I haven't been the Leading Rider before," said Spooner. "Coming in here I really wanted to be a Leading Rider. Last year I gave Robinson a lot of time off because I wanted to keep him fresh. This year he felt so good in the off-season that I went ahead and showed him in 10 of the 12 Grand Prix and he won three." Spooner had accumulated so many points with Robinson, Bradford, and Southshore, that he had already secured the Leading Rider title before today's class started.
How does the big winner celebrate his best Indio Desert Circuit yet? "I'm going to go and have a nice bottle of champagne, nice cigar, sit down and relax," said Spooner, adding, "then load everything up tomorrow and then week after next I'm off to Tampa for three weeks--so no rest for the wicked."
Ford sponsored the $150,000 Grand Prix of the Desert for the second year in a row. Rome Murphy, E-Commerce/Marketing Manager Ford Division, made the presentation of the engraved silver tray in the awards ceremony. Murphy said Ford is pleased with the response the sponsorship has generated. "We've got a product that meets the needs of all the participants and exhibitors at the equestrian events at the Indio horse show," said Murphy. "It's a win-win for us and for anybody who comes by to check out our booth and our products. We have ten trucks on display throughout the grounds. We've also got an X650 Super Cruiser here that tows up to 30,000 pounds. We've already taken orders for three of them." Murphy said Ford will be back at Indio in 2002. "We'll have a refreshed line of Super Duty trucks. We're always upgrading our product to meet the ever-increasing demand of the consumers. Their tastes become more and more demanding every year, so we've got to be there to make sure we meet those needs."
Today's class was also a qualifying Grand Prix for the Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League Invitational Finals to be held in Culpeper, Virginia, September 26-30, 2001.
$150,000 FORD GRAND PRIX, March 11, 2001
Indio Desert Circuit VI, Indio, California
Course Designer: Conrad Homfeld
Pl/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1/Rd 2/Faults/J-O Time
1 Southshore/Richard Spooner/Eldorado 29/$45,000/0/0/52.74
2 Maloubet/Hap Hansen/Linda I Smith/$33,000/0/8/52.30
3 Pershing/Ray Texel/Beverly Hills Equestrian Park LLC/$7,200/4/NA
3 Grace/Tracy Fenney/Hidden Lake Farm/$7,200/4/NA
3 Baccarat/Mary Tyng/China blue Farm/$7,200/4/NA
3 Robinson/Half Moon Bay Investment Group/$7,200/4/NA
3 Leoncuso/Sarah Baldwin/Brookwood Stables Inc/$7,200/4/NA
3 Bravo Delta/Ragan Roberts/Alex Dillard/$7,200/4/NA
3 Frisky IV/Dehlia Oeuvray/Charles Burrus/$7,200/4/NA
3 King Cavalier/Dehlia Oeuvray/Charles Burrus/$7,200/4/NA
3 Amos/Rich Fellers/Harry & Mollie Chapman/$7,200/4/NA
12 Fleur/Ray Texel/Beverly Hills Equestrian Park LLC/$900/8/NA
12 Eezy/Duncan McFarlane/Kathie Cheatham/$900/8/NA
12 Southern Jester/Mary Tyng/China Blue Farm/$900/8/NA
12 El Campeon's Cirka Z/Nicole Shahinian-Simpson/$900/8/NA
12 Kijoy Forever/Sarah Baldwin/Brookwood Stables/$900/8/NA
12 Jaguar/Hap Hansen/Linda Burke/$900/8/NA
12 Libra/Jenni Martin.Karim Ghaibi/$900/8/NA
12 Sam Malone/Debbie& Jim Burrows/$900/8/NA
Number of horses that competed in this class: 39
Class Prize Money: $150,000