INDIO, CA (March 4, 2001)--Ray Texel and Fleur were last to go in a five-horse jump-off and beat Richard Spooner on Robinson--the only other double-clear--by .867 of a second to win the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix at the Indio Desert Circuit in California today. Texel, 28, of Malibu, California, won last Sunday's World Cup qualifier--the $50,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix--aboard Fleur, placing him second in the West Coast League standings for the upcoming World Cup Final in April. Course Designer Buddy Brown of Wellington, Florida, built today's course for the field of 48 entries and an enthusiastic crowd of 1,200. "Obviously winning last weekend helps a little bit coming into this weekend," said Texel. "The fact that I'm in for the World Cup for sure means I really--in a way--have nothing to lose except a placing in the class. So my objective was again like last weekend, to go in and go as fast as I possibly could, but ask for a little bit of help which she really gave me today. She really tried hard for me and I really appreciate it from her. " Texel took home the blue ribbon, an engraved silver tray, an embroidered cooler, and $15,000 for Fleur's owner, Beverly Hills Equestrian Park.
Brown built a 12-jump Round One course that included a double at Fence No. 4, another double at Fence No. 8, and a last line that included a black oxer at No. 9, water at No. 10, and a triple at Fence No. 11. The highest jump on course was the final fence, No. 12, at 5' 2". Time Allowed was set at 88 seconds. Twenty-two riders had No. 9 down and 26 riders were unable to clear the triple. Five riders did not complete the course.
"I think I set a tough course, for sure," said Brown, adding that he had hoped for up to eight in the jump-off. "Definitely I had planned on that last line to be the key factor. I'm not 100% wild that the black jump (No. 9) was the key jump. It was meant to be a difficult jump but it was a little tougher than I wanted it to be. I did what I intended to do, which was to create some suspense and drama. Until the horses got down that last line they weren't home free. If you did get over the black one, the water was pretty much a freebie--it was just to set up momentum for the triple. 11A was probably our next biggest factor in the course. I like to build something for the crowd, to give a nice flow. The beginning part of the course builds momentum and wears them down a little bit so the endurance factor catches up to them. 11A was only a four-foot-nine jump and it came down as much as anything other than the black jump."
For the Jump Off, Brown built a nine-obstacle short course and set Time Allowed at 50 seconds. Richard Spooner, 31, of Burbank, California, on Robinson was first in the order of go, and set the pace with a clear round in 43.090. The next three riders--Jenni Martin on Augustin Walch's Rio Grande, Switzerland's Dehlia Oeuvray on Charles Burrus's Frisky IV, and Duncan McFarlane on Kathie Cheatham's Eezy--all had faults, setting Spooner up for his fifth Grand Prix win of the circuit. Texel was the last rider on course and held the crowd spellbound through the final jump before they erupted into cheers when he tripped the timers clear in 42.223 for the win. Texel pumped his fist in a pre-awards victory lap and doffed his hat to the fans. "She's a crowd-pleaser too, Fleur," said Texel. "She gets very expressive. She's real exciting. She really makes a big effort. I think that our chemistry works great together. That's something people can see even if they're not great experts at watching show jumping. It's easy for people to say 'wow'--those two look really good together and really fun. I think that that helps a little bit with the crowd. They get into it a little bit more."
Reviewing the course, Texel said, "I wouldn't say today was an especially technical course but it was a real rider/horse course. You really had to be functioning as a unit today because any little miscommunication caused a lot of errors in the yellow triple combination. It certainly caught me on my first horse Pershing. But fortunately Fleur was really on the ball today. That No. 9 jump is designed to make the horse look through the rails at the wall and then make that little error in front and not really get the correct distance away from that jump in front. Also, it's really out there by tself--a big turn to it so the horses have a real chance to get flat. When they go to compress to leave the ground, that level of compression doesn't reach its full potential off the ground. That specific jump was a technical fence."
Describing his jump-off plan, Texel said, "Spooner as usual came out and set the pace and really put the heat on everyone else. I don't like to watch too many people go because I like to keep a very clear head about what my job is. All I need to be aware of is if they did a certain turn that I was questioning doing. When I heard that everyone had done the inside turn to the red oxer then I knew for sure that I would have to do it."
Fleur's bit and bridle are unusual, and Texel explained why he uses the custom-made tack on her. "It's a hackamore bit combination. The hackamore gives me a lot more control over her, her stride and the length of her stride. It also helps me to control her off of the ground at the jumps that are a little more careful so I can help her a little bit more. What happens a lot of times with a normal bit is--if a horse has a tendency to really lean or really fight the rider in the mouth, and if that fight occurs as you're leaving the ground, it can cause you to have that front rail down or can cause you to jump a little bit low and not create a higher arc. This bit gives me more control of her jump but without disrupting the style of her jump. It actually helps maximize her style of jump because it gives her an ability to soften off the ground instead of a fight off the ground. I don't use it except for on the day that I show. All the rest of the time she just goes in a normal bit. She's pretty uncomplicated." Texel said that he discovered how effective the bit was when he used it in competition for the first time and won the World Cup qualifying class at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. "It's custom-fit to her face. It's not a bit you can take off and throw on any horse. That bit's made just for Fleur and it fits her perfectly so it doesn't cause irritations or pinching or any of those things that a lot of hackamores will cause. It's a great advantage having a good bit."
Today's win was a special win for Texel in a bittersweet way. On March 4, 1989, Texel's father died. An emotional Texel said, "It's a difficult day because I have a lot of memories of him and the fact that he's not here to see me. It's hard not to feel the way that I feel--to miss my father in my life and to wish that he were here watching. Maybe in some way today he's kind of there for me a little bit. It's hard to take a great negative like that and turn it into a positive but that was something that I really tried to do in my life. At this point in my life--not just because of the success that I've had, but because of the person that I am and the people that I'm fortunate enough to have as my friends--I really feel that I have turned that into a positive. That's probably the one saving grace about such a negative event. It takes a long time, but you can do it if you work hard enough--take that tragedy with you because it's a part of you and it's what makes you stronger in the end as a competitor and as a person. "
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.
$50,000 HITS GRAND PRIX, March 4, 2001
Indio Desert Circuit V, Indio, California
Course Designer: Buddy Brown
Pl/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1/Rd 2/Faults/J-O Time
1 Fleur/Ray Texel/Beverly Hills Equestrian Park LLC/$15,000/0/0/42.223
2 Robinson/Richard Spooner/Half Moon Bay Investment Group/$11,000/0/0/43.090
3 Eezy/Duncan McFarlane/Kathie Cheatham/$6,500/0/4/44.292
4 Frisky IV/Dehlia Oeuvray/Charles Burrus/$4,000//0/7/52.896
5 Rio Grande/Jenni Martin/Augustin Walch/$3,000/0/12/47.398
6 Bradford/Richard Spooner/Tracey Kenley/Kenly Farms/$2,500/4/NA
7 Wisby D/Michelle Parker/Cross Creek Farms/$2,000/4/NA
8 McGee/Abby Converse/Abby Converse/$1,500/4/NA
9 Stealth Sprenger/Rich Fellers/Harry & Mollie Chapman/$1,500/4/NA
10 Grace/Tracy Fenney/Hidden Lake Farm/$1,000/4/NA
11 Jaguar/Hap Hansen/Linda Burke/$1,000/4NA
12 Kijoy Forever/Sarah Baldwin/Brookwood Stables Inc/$1,000/4/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 48
Class Prize Money: $50,000
HITS Indio Desert 2001 Show Jumping Action continues & FINAL WEEK
Circuit VI March 7-11
$25,000 Ariat Grand Prix Friday, March 9 1pm
$50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge
Presented by The Chronicle of the Horse Sunday, March 11 8 am
$150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert Sunday, March 11 2pm
Special Day Events:
Presented by Avis, Boys & Girls Club of Coachella Sunday, March 11
Valley, El Informador del Valle, KUNA TV, and Valley Meat Markets