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Richard Spooner Victorious In $150,000 Ford Grand Prix Of The Desert

INDIO, CA (March 15, 2004)—Record crowds lined the bleechers for the $150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert, the Grand Finale to six weeks of top-level hunter/jumper competition at the HITS Indio Desert Circuit. The competition attracted a field of 46 entries, and Richard Spooner and Hilton Flight were first in the order of go. Not the most enviable position in the competitive sport of Grand Prix show jumping, Spooner proved that first in the ring can also mean first in the class. When asked if he imagined that he might win today's class considering his #1 position in the jump order, Richard replied, "It didn't surprise me at all. Hilton Flight is a really, really good horse. That's why I chose him as my World Cup horse today. He had performed pretty well on the [Indio Desert] Circuit so far, but he hadn't won. Today he proved he could!"

Hilton Flight is an 11-year-old, Irish-bred, 17 hand gelding, owned by Darin Gilchriese of Freedom Farms, Inc. Darin purchased the horse in Ireland about three years ago and after the class he exclaimed, "The horse just gets better and better." With St. Patrick's Day around the corner, it looks like Darin Gilchriese is entitled to start celebrating a little early.

Only three riders managed to clear the technical 14-obstacle first round course set by course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Caracas, Venezuela. Spooner led off on the eight-obstacle short course with a clear round in a time of 48.17 seconds. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and El Campeons So Long followed Spooner's lead with another clear round, but could not best his time. The pair crossed the timers over two seconds shy with 50.91 on the clock for second place. John Pearce and Jamco's Champagne finished out the field with an eight-fault performance in a time of 55.94 seconds for third place.

The $150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert was the final qualifying event for the selection of the West Coast squad to represent the United States Equestrian Team at the FEI World Cup of Show Jumping, April 21-25 in Milan, Italy. The riders who claimed the top three spots in the Ford Grand Prix are also the riders with the most points in the standings, and in that same order - Spooner, Shahinian-Simpson and French have all been named to the West Coast squad.

Richard Spooner and Hilton Flight - Winners of the $150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert
Also in photo, left to right - Tony Hitchcock, HITS, Rome Murphy, Ford, and representative of Freedom Farms Inc.
Todd Sutherland Photography © 2004

Other major award winners at Indio Desert Circuit VI included:
HBO Junior Medal - Randy Sherman, Pasadena, CA
Charles Owen Children's Medal - Jill Broadbent, Salt Lake City, UT
Charles Owen Adult Medal - Elizabeth Dickinson, Los Angeles, CA
Bayer Legend Leading Hunter Rider - Heidi Austin, Hebron, IL
Bayer Legend Leading Jumper Rider - Richard Spooner, Temecula, CA
Adequan Open Hunter - Elizabeth Gabler, Malibu, CA

Jill Henselwood, pictured below, was the winner of the Leading Grand Prix Rider Award for the circuit. Jill received a beautiful gold and sapphire "Super Bowl" ring courtesy of Golden Horse Jewelry.

Nicole Shahinian-Simpson received the Jimmy Kohn Style of Riding Award.

Barbara Girgenti of Golden Horse Jewelry presents Jill Henselwood with the Leading Grand Prix Rider Award. Also in photo, Tony Hitchcock, HITS

Nicole Shahinian-Simpson receives the Jimmy Kohn Style of Riding Award

$150,000 Ford Grand Prix of the Desert - Sunday, March 14 , 2004
Indio Desert Circuit VI - Indio, CA
Course Designer: Leopoldo Palacios, Caracas, Venezuela

Place Horse Rider Owner Prize Money Rd 1 Faults JOFaults JO Time
1st Hilton Flight Richard A Spooner Freedom Farms Inc. $45,000 0 0 48.17
2nd El Campeons So Long Nicole Shahinian-Simpson El Campeon Farms $33,000 0 0 50.91
3rd Jamco's Champagne John Pearce
Forest View Farms $19,500 0 8 55.94
4th Lexicon Helen McNaught Beverly Hills Equestrian Partners $12,000 1
5th AKA Canabis Z Manuel Senderos Manuel Senderos $9,000 2
6th Itano De La Bastide Susan Hutchison Jenny McLaughlin $2,863.63 4
6th Lady-D Jeff Campf Jeff Campf $2,863.63 4
6th Millenium John French Cathy / Alex Mendez $2,863.63 4
6th Sapphire Mark Watring Watring / Bohannan $2,863.63 4
6th NZ Madison Guy Thomas Willow Tree Farm $2,863.63 4
6th Sandstone Laurin Gabriella Salick Sandstone Horse Sales LLC $2,863.63 4
6th El Campeons Cirka Z Nicole Shahinian-Simpson El Campeon Farms $2,863.63 4
6th El Campeons Ado Annie Will Simpson El Campeon Farms $2,863.63 4
6th McGuinness Rich Fellers Harry / Mollie Chapman $2,863.63 4
6th Callisto Jill Henselwood Juniper Farms Ltd. $2,863.63 4
6th Simply Sydney Guy Thomas Willow Tree Farm $2,863.63 4

For more information on the Indio Desert Circuit, please visit



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