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Ashlee Bond, top '09 GP rider

By Daniel K. Lew / Horsetrader photo

Ashlee Bond, top '09 GP rider

THERMAL, Calif. — Last week marked the beginning of the 2010 show jumping season on the West Coast as exhibitors from all over the world are flocking to Southern California and to participate in world-class competition at the HITS Desert Horse Park.

“We are thrilled to return to the desert for another year,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “This is the 19th year of the HITS Desert Circuit and we are extremely proud of the product that we offer our exhibitors. Entries continue to grow from last year and that is exciting news for the sport.”

The circuit will host 16 Qualifying Grand Prix classes for the historic Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, which will take place Sept. 12 in Saugerties, N.Y. In addition, HITS Thermal also offers four FEI World Cup Qualifiers during weeks II, III, IV and V, which has been attracting lots of interest from international riders from Mexico and beyond. For the finale, HITS Thermal will close out the season with a monstrous $300,000 Grand Prix of the Desert, presented by Pfizer Animal Health on Sunday, March 14.

Highlighting Junior/Amateur-owner competition will be $25,000 California Horsetrader Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper High Classic, which will be featured during the Final week at HITS Thermal.

“We are looking for HITS Thermal 2010 to be our biggest and best yet,” said trainer Morley Abbey. “With the shortened circuit and the most money offered in California, our clients have responded with our having the largest number of horses, yet! We are bringing an average of 20 horses over all six weeks.”

Joie Gatlin, eager to compete

By Daniel K. Lew / Horsetrader photo

Joie Gatlin, eager to compete

Heading the list of top riders that will attend the 2010 HITS Desert Circuit will be two-time Olympic Gold Medal Winner McLain Ward. Ward, of Brewster, N.Y., will be making his annual trek west to compete during Desert Circuit II and Desert Circuit III and plans to show in many classes and divisions, including the two FEI World Cup Qualifiers.

Other top High-Performance Riders that will be looking to qualify early for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix include Canadian Olympians Jill Henselwood and John Pearce as well as California’s Mandy Porter and Joie Gatlin.

“With the retirement of SunCal’s King, I am looking for Camaron Hill’s Quick Dollar to help secure a spot for the 2010 World Cup Finals. With the incredible atmosphere the indoor ring offers I feel that if we qualify, we’ll be more than ready,” said Gatlin. “As always, our hunters are coming to vie for valuable points to take them east for Indoors in the fall. Again, we would like to thank HITS for their on-going commitment to provide the best winter circuit in the country.”

HITS Thermal will also offer some exciting new classes for hunters, including the all new $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby during weeks I, II, IV, V and VI, which is getting a lot of buzz from trainers and riders up and down the West Coast.

“The weekly Derby is certainly something to look forward to,” said top hunter rider John French, who has traveled from his Northern California farm with nearly 40 horses for the circuit. “It’s always nice when some of the hunter classes get a special touch. I can’t wait.”

2010 HITS Desert Circuit Dates

  • Desert Circuit I: January 26-31
  • Desert Circuit II: World Cup Week February 2-7 Entry
  • Desert Circuit III: February 9-14 Entry
  • OFF-WEEK February 16-21
  • Desert Circuit IV: World Cup Week February 23-28 Entry
  • Desert Circuit V: World Cup Week March 2-7 Entry
  • Desert Circuit VI: March 9-14 Entry

In order to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, a rider must compete in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. The top 40 riders based on money won by horse/rider combination will be eligible to ride for the Pfizer Million.

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