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HITS rides out of town

Nancy Hamlett, staff writer

More than 2,000 people braved the threat of triple digit temperatures to enjoy the final day of HITS Tahoe in Minden.

Beginning at 8 a.m. with the $25,000 Carson Valley Inn Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic, Kandi McCoy of Leona Valley, Calif., was the only rider in a field of 11 to go double clean on the course designed by Danny Foster, a former member of the Canadian show jumping team.

McCoy won the class with Froccs, an 11-year-old Czechoslovakian Thoroughbred, and took second place with Cartousch, a recent addition to her stable. Only five horses cleared the 13-jump first round course to qualify for the jump off, with Froccs and Cartousch the only two horses to jump clear during the tie-breaker. Apsen Springs Ranch owns both horses and received a total of $13,000 in prize money.

McCoy arrived in Minden for HITS Tahoe II and has been here ever since.

“The competition has been great. When you look back at the amateur classes, they weren’t huge, but the 15 that were here were probably the top 15 horses on the West Coast. It was not easy to win here. I’m happy we made the decision to come. We’ll be here next year. It’s going to be a huge horse show,” said McCoy.

The highlight of the day, the $100,000 HITS Grand Prix, drew 23 nationally-ranked horses and riders, many of them shipped in specifically for this event.

Richard Spooner of Glendale, Calif., riding his longtime partner, the 12-year-old Havoverian gelding, Robinson, nailed the jump-off course in a time that was almost four seconds faster than their closest competitor. When he saw his time, Spooner swept his hat off while still galloping, flipped it in the air and caught it, much to the delight of the audience.

“You can still be beat, but the point is, you want to make it exciting. You want people to know that you’re excited,” said Spooner, who took home $30,000 for owner Half Moon Bay Investment Group.

Course designer Foster called the 13-jump Grand Prix course “medium technical” and said that he gave up part of the intensity level in order to keep the size of the jumps up. All verticals were 5 feet high and oxers were 4 feet, 9 inches to 4 feet, 10 inches wide and at least 5 feet high. Foster specifically placed a double and triple jump directly in front of the crowds in order to involve them more keenly in the competition.

Ten horses had clear rounds and moved on to the jump-off, with 66 seconds allowed for the eight-obstacle course. Foster included a long gallop from Fence 11 to the last jump that went past the VIP tent and straight at the south bleachers.

“That was pretty exciting for the crowd,” said Foster. “And I know Richard couldn’t live without that big run home, so that was in his honor.”

“The key to the jump-off is to make the sport interesting,” said Spooner. “That what it’s all about. The first round whets everybody’s appetite and then the entree is the jump-off. You have to make sure that it keeps people on the edge of their seats. They have to make people want to come back next year. And I hope that this did.”

Inferno, ridden by Hap Hansen, who has 90 Grand Prix wins to his credit, placed second in the Grand Prix and took home $22,000 for owners Jon Shirley and Rocky Mountain Warmbloods. Peter Breakwell riding Leonson for Hyperion Farm took home third place and $13,000. Spooner also placed fourth on Incento, earning $6,000 for Half Moon Bay Investment Group and Leslie Steele, riding Figaro, the winner of the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix on July 9 took fifth and won $6,000.

Five weeks of HITS Tahoe in Minden is now history, but show dates have already been set for the 2001 circuit. Most of the riders have indicated that they will be back.

“I think the footing is great, the facility is great,” said McCoy. “It was great to see Tom (Struzzieri, president and CEO of HITS Tahoe) out early in the morning dragging the rings and putting water on the rigs. You don’t see horse show managers doing that. He’s dedicated to putting on good horse shows. He does a great job.”

The $100,000 HITS Grand Prix was filmed by JCR Sports Productions of Foothill Ranch, Calif., and after production and editing the footage will be aired on several networks. Visit their website at http://www.tvshowjumping.com. in August for a complete schedule.