Cruise wins the $25,000 Smart Pack Grand Prix

THERMAL, CA (March 10, 2012) – As the final days of the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit approach, Chris Pratt of Lake View Terrace, California shifted things into high gear when he and Indigo Farms, LLC’s Cruise beat out 54 other starters to take the top prize in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Pratt’s victory is his first of the season after he and Cruise finished fourth in the $53,000 Chartis Grand Prix CSI2*-W, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, last week. Friday’s win was the launch for the season finale at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California with the festivities for Horsepower Weekend officially underway.

For the third year in a row, the show grounds in Thermal have been invaded by luxury speed-machines courtesy of sponsor Lamborghini of Newport Beach. Lining the berms of the Strongid C 2X Grand Prix arena are the very best in sports car technology and design. This year’s line-up includes a couple of very sleek McLarens, the Fiskar, which pairs electric technology with the power of a sports car, and a reproduction of a late 1950s Porsche that has the eye of several exhibitors and even members of the HITS Staff.

As millions of dollars of dormant horsepower sat quietly on the berms, an equally valuable assemblage of active horsepower took to the field to challenge Olympic Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Sr.’s Grand Prix track.

Friday’s class was a “who’s who” of West Coast show jumping and offered the perfect mix of excitement and drama as High-Performance riders tune up for Sunday’s $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach. Petersen set a dynamic 1.50 meter course that took riders and horses on a journey of height, stamina and speed. The first 12 riders failed to master Petersen’s test, with much of the trouble coming at his double combination at fence five. Mexico’s 2011 Pan-Am Team Bronze Medalist Antonio Maurer and his own Callao were the first to go clear, and were immediately joined in the jump-off by Pratt and Cruise who followed behind them in the order.

Seven trips later, Rich Fellers of Wilsonville, Oregon and Harry & Mollie Chapman’s Flexible completed a clean round of their own to make it three in the jump-off with more than half of the class still left to show. After the next 16 riders failed to advance to the short course, John McConnell of Lemitar, New Mexico piloted Rancho Corazon, LLC’s Katie Riddle to a clean ride, making it four in the jump-off. Forty-fourth in the order, Lane Clarke of Laguna Nigel, California and Granville Equine’s Casseur de Prix were the final pair to go clean in the first round, setting the stage for a five man jump-off.

For the jump-off, Petersen brought back 10 efforts, including the liverpool and the a and b elements from his triple combination, which prevented nine first-round riders from advancing to the jump-off.

Maurer and Callao were up first in the jump-off and wasted no time setting the Great American Time to Beat at 41.626 seconds. Their glory only lasted a few moments as Pratt and Cruise immediately followed them and managed to shave nearly two seconds off their time to take the lead in 39.286 seconds.

After the class, Pratt was already looking ahead to Sunday, and beyond.  “My horse was right on form today. I hope we left something in the tank for Sunday. If my schedule fits, I’d love to go to Saugerties for the [Pfizer] Million. I’ve heard such great things about that class.”

Fellers and Flexible were next to show and unfortunately dropped the very first rail. They made it through the rest of the route without any trouble to finish in 40.626 seconds with four jumping faults, which earned them third place. McConnell and Katie Riddle followed and also suffered a jumping fault when they knocked a rail at the 9a-b combination to finish in fourth place.

Clarke and Casseur de Prix had the final opportunity and seemed to be on their way to a double clear ride, but heartbreak came at the last line when they dropped rails on the last two fences. They crossed the timers in 41.107 seconds with eight jumping faults to finish in fifth place.

With Friday’s class in the books, all eyes are now on Sunday’s $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix finale which, as the final qualifying opportunity of the Circuit for September’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, is expected to draw a large starting field and an even bigger spectator crowd eager to witness who will be crowned the champion of the richest Grand Prix on the West Coast. Sunday’s schedule will include several specialty classes starting at 8am with the $25,000 California Horsetrader Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, followed by the $25,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at 11am and the Grand Prix at 2pm.

“Sunday will be a spectacular finish to a spectacular season here in the desert,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. “Everything about this year has been a great indication of the bright future ahead for the Desert Circuit. The success of this season will pave the way for some new and exciting additions, not just here in Thermal, but across all of the HITS Circuits.”

Film crews from A Good Show and HRTV are on-site this weekend and will capture the excitement of Sunday’s Grand Prix for their Road to the Pfizer Million show jumping special that will air on the network sometime in the next couple of weeks. For those not lucky enough to be in the warmth of the Southern California desert this weekend to see this excitement unfold first hand, a free live webcast will be available for online viewing starting Sunday afternoon at 2pm PDT at on-demand viewing will be available after the class via this link:

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