MINDEN, NEVADA (July 22, 2001)-Richard Spooner, 31, of Burbank, California, returned to HITS Tahoe in Minden, Nevada, to defend his title as the winner of the grande finale of the circuit--he won the $100,000 Grand Prix of Tahoe last year aboard Robinson, and he did it again this year. With the only double-clear round in a field of 19 horses, Richard Spooner and Robinson won the $100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix today. Spooner owns Robinson, a 13-year old Hanoverian gelding, with the Half Moon Bay Investment Group and took home $30,000 for his win. Spooner also placed third with Tracey Kenly's Bradford for $13,000 and eleventh with Oscany Inc.'s Incento for $2,000. He was awarded checks for $45,000 in prize money. Danny Foster of Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, was the course designer.
A crowd of more than 2,000 people surrounded the Grand Prix ring to watch the class and many of them stayed after the victory lap to have their programs and posters autographed. "The spectator crowd was bigger this year than last year," commented Spooner. "We have a fantastic spectator base here and lots of support in Minden and Gardnerville. There was a long line at the autograph table."
Foster, who was also the course designer at last year's $100,000 class, built a 13-obstacle Round One course that included a triple at Fence No. 5 and a double at Fence No. 12. Time Allowed was set at 91 seconds. Two riders retired on course. Spooner, who went third in the order on Robinson, had the first clear round. Seven horse-and-rider combinations tried the course after him, but none could clear it. Spooner turned in his second clear on the 11th horse on the roster, Bradford. Duncan McFarlane of San Ramone, California, riding Eezy was next on course and put in the only other clear. With his third horse, Incento, Spooner had the unfortunate last rail down for four faults and did not qualify Incento for the Jump-Off.
"Incento just rubbed the last fence. It had been coming down easily all day and it came down for me," said Spooner. Comparing last year's Round One to today's, Spooner said, "It was a different course this year. It was well planned and smooth and technical enough if you got stuck on the inside track of a few of the lines. The Time Allowed was generous and not an issue, which allowed you to pick the course apart. A lot of the riders tended to string the lines together and not take their time, so the jumps came up too fast and they had them down. Whenever you go clear in a class, you don't want too many more to be clear after you, but for a while, it looked like it would be just me in the Jump-Off. Then Duncan went clear and he can be very fast."
For the Jump-Off, Foster built a nine-obstacle course that included one double combination. Time Allowed was set at 55 seconds. Spooner was first to go on Robinson and set the pace with a clear round in 45.551 seconds, taking the lead and keeping it for the win. Spooner had to come back to the ring as the second rider in the Jump-Off with Bradford, and lowered two fences for eight faults, ending up third. McFarlane and Eezy, the pair that won the $15,000 Open Jumper Prix at HITS Tahoe on Friday, chased the leader's time, but had the last rail down for four faults in 47.047, which was good enough for second place and $22,000 for owner Kathie Cheatham.
Riding the first two horses in a three-horse Jump-Off required some strategy on Spooner's part. "I didn't put in a lightning fast round with Robinson," he said. "There was an inside turn that I could have done before the second-to-the-last jump, but I didn't, so I hoped with Bradford that I could go faster."
He explained that getting off one horse and then having to warm up the second one was not a problem. "You just take as much time as you need within reason." But his strategy to put in a faster round didn't work. "It was a long Jump-Off-there were nine jumps. But by going at top speed across the middle, I had the next two jumps down after that run. When I wasn't able to go clear I slowed down. So I knew I hadn't won it yet."
Spooner watched McFarlane's Jump-Off round. "He had the last jump down in the Jump-Off. The last jump was uphill and away from the back gate. It was an oxer on flat cups that came down." But to Spooner, that jump wasn't the key to his win, because even if McFarlane had kept all the jumps up, his time still would have placed him second. "The long run across the middle of the ring was the 'do or die part' of the Jump-Off," said Spooner, "And that's where Robinson went just a little bit faster than Duncan and Eezy.
The next stop on Spooner's competition schedule is Germany. "It's a Riders Tour in which the top 30 riders in the world compete at nine shows," explained Spooner. He will take Robinson and Incento with him on the tour.
Today's $100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix was the final class in the four-week HITS Tahoe hunter/jumper circuit. HITS Tahoe will return to Minden, Nevada, in 2002 for five weeks. HITS Tahoe 2002 show dates are:
HITS Tahoe I June 26-30, 2002
HITS Tahoe II July 3-7, 2002
HITS Tahoe III July 10-14, 2002
HITS Tahoe IV July 17-21, 2002
HITS Tahoe V July 24-28, 2002
$100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix July 22, 2001
HITS Tahoe IV, Minden, Nevada
Course Designer: Danny Foster
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults -Time
1/Robinson/Richard Spooner/Half Moon Bay Investment Group/$30,000/0/0-45.551
2/Eezy/Duncan McFarlane/Kathie Cheatham/$22,000/0/4-47.047
3/Bradford/Richard Spooner/Tracey Kenly &Kenly Farms/$13,000/0/8-48.329
4/Sunrise/Julie White/Douglas M. White/$8,000/3/NA
5//Loreto/Javier Fernandez/Charles R Parks/$6,000/4/NA
6/Alcatraz 34/Jenni Martin/Augustin Walch/$5,0004/NA
7/Millenium/John French/Cathy & Alex Mendez/$4,000/4/NA
8/Figaro/Leslie Steele/Leslie Steele/$3,000/4/NA
9/Spanish Parade/Sarah Ballou/Sarah Ballou/$3,000/4/NA
10/Hightop/Duncan McFarlane/Margaret Freeman/$2,000/4/NA
11/Incento/Richard Spooner/Oscany Inc/$2,0004/NA
12/Irish Boy/Jose Antonio Greaves/Jose Antonio Greaves/$2,000/4/NA
Number of horses that competed in this class: 19
Class Prize Money: $100,000