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Tahoe Ireland's Damian Gardiner Takes First and Fourth in $50,000 EMO Grand Prix at HITS Tahoe Week II

MINDEN, NEVADA (July 8, 2001)-Damian Gardiner, 33, of Rancho Sante Fe, California, rode two double-clears today, to take first and fourth place in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix at HITS Tahoe in Minden, Nevada. Gardiner won the class with Delta Frenchy and was fourth with Delta Pablo Van Papingro, both owned by Delta Farm. Gardiner was presented with a cooler, a silver tray and two checks totaling $19,000 for Mr. and Mrs. Tom Frank, owners of Delta Farm. Gardiner is originally from Ireland and was a member of the Irish Show Jumping team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Michael Curtis of Tucson, Arizona, designed the course for today's field of 20 horses.

Round One asked the riders to jump 12 obstacles including a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination at Fence No. 6, a vertical-vertical double at Fence No. 9, and an oxer-vertical double at Fence No. 10. Time Allowed was set at 101 seconds. Nine horses had clear rounds and moved on to the Jump-Off.

For the short course, Curtis removed Fence No. 5 and asked the riders to jump Fences 1, 2, 4, 10AB, 11, and 12. Time Allowed was set at 49 seconds. First in the order was Gardiner on Delta Frenchy who set the pace with a clear round in 41.286 seconds. Four riders chased Gardiner's time, but none were clear, though three were faster. Jenni Martin of Central Point, Oregon, on Alcatraz 34 had a rail in 41.991 for eighth place. Carol Wright of Elk Grove, California, lowered one fence with Valkyrie, the only mare in the group, for four faults in 41.154, for seventh. Javier Fernandez of Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, had the fastest jump-off time in 39.517 on Loreto, but a rail down put him in fifth place. Ashlee Bond, the 16-year-old rider from Hidden Hills, California, who won the $50,000 Cosequin Grand Prix last week on Lapaloupe, lowered two fences with him today incurring eight faults in 40.846 for ninth place.

Gardiner returned to the ring as the sixth rider and went clear again, this time with Delta Pablo Van Papingro, but had the slowest time of the nine horses-47.491 for fourth. Beate Kuska-Shart of Acton, California, riding the only stallion in the class, Luciano, challenged the leader with a clear in 43.517, which put her in second place. Julie White of Yerington, Nevada, on her Thoroughbred Sunrise followed and was the fourth double-clear of the class; her time of 43.927 placed her third. Last to go was Steve Bond, Ashlee's father, on Fabius who had the time, 40.129, but lowered the second-to-last fence for four faults and took sixth place.

"The course design was beautiful," said Gardiner. "Mike always does a great job. They're two pretty new horses to me. Frenchy's an older horse at 12, and Pablo just turned eight. It's only my third Grand Prix with Pablo, so I wanted to take him easy, and jump around clean. In the Grand Prix last week both horses had four faults, so I was very happy with the course today. There were nine clear rounds and that was great for the crowd-we had a great crowd here today. There were a lot of kids into it. The crowd loved it."

Going first in the jump-off and knowing he had two chances to win, Gardiner had a strategy planned for both rides. "I didn't go all 'guns to the wall' with Frenchy. I wanted to go quick but try and leave the jumps up because I wanted people to try and catch me. Then I went in with Pablo knowing that if I had a clean round he would win second place. I don't know him-I know he's a quick horse, but I just wanted to go around and get good experience with him because he's young and I've not had him that long. Frenchy comes out and he gets charged up. I have to gallop into the ring. If I walk into the ring, he'll spin around and go the other way. When he comes in on Sundays and sees more people in the crowd, he really gets up and going. He's a nice horse to ride. Pablo comes out and appears to be slow like a little pony and then he can pop a good buck, so he's got a good attitude."

Delta Frenchy is a French warmblood gelding with some Belgian blood, according to Gardiner, and Delta Pablo is a Belgian warmblood gelding. Both horses are. 16.1 hands. "I bought these two horses from Barney Ward," said Gardiner. "He spent a year-and-a-half trying to find Pablo for me. He called me and said, 'I've got the horse', but he wouldn't sell him to me unless I bought Frenchy too because he didn't want me to overuse Pablo." Gardiner has his sights set on the 2004 Olympics, and thinks he has the horse. "Yes, I plan to go to the Olympics, probably with Pablo. That's what we bought him for, so we're working on it."

Delta Farm is owned by Tom and Cid Frank. "They ride in the Amateur Divisions," said Gardiner. "They were champions here this week in the Low Amateurs-Tom was Champion and his wife Cid was Reserve. They had a great weekend. They're great owners for me. Actually, apart from owners, they're great friends of mine."

Gardiner brought 27 horses and a group of clients to HITS Tahoe for Weeks I and II. He'll be away Week III at an international competition with Delta Frenchy, and then he will return to HITS Tahoe for Week IV and the $100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix. Gardiner says he'll ride two horses in the Grand Prix, and possibly three if he brings Delta Frenchy back.

"We came here last year and had a great time," said Gardiner. "Tom [Struzzieri] does a great job with the shows, and we keep coming back. They had a great Kids Day here today. My kids were out there playing around. There were a lot more people here this year than last. I think it's a big success. Tom makes things happen and he does a good job."

All eight riders from the Jump-Off returned to the ring after their victory lap and signed autographs for 30 minutes for a crowd of enthusiastic youngsters who had HITS Tahoe show programs and posters for the riders to sign.

Michael Roy Curtis, today's Course Designer, said, "I really consider myself an exhibitor-oriented course designer. I am concerned with working with our exhibitors and proving that we can work together. It helps our horses improve at a more rapid rate rather than over-facing horses. Some would say I'm more of a subtle designer-my courses don't walk as tough as they might actually ride. I try not to be too technical. I think the rails fall where they do and if it's spread out evenly over the course, I've done my job. I encourage jump offs. I think it's exciting for our exhibitors to have the thrill of riding in front of a big crowd. I try to involve the spectators at every level and every part of that ring, to draw them into what's happening. Today's Grand Prix was proof of the pudding-it was very exciting to watch."

$50,000 EMO Grand Prix, July 8, 2001
HITS Tahoe II, Minden, Nevada
Course Designer: Michael Curtis

Pl# Horse Rider Owner Prize Money Rd 1 Faults/Jump-off Faults-Time
1/Delta Frenchy/Damian Gardiner/Delta Farm/$15,000/0/0-41.286
2/Luciano/Beate Kuska-Shart/Malibu Equestrian Estates Inc/0/0-43.517
3/Sunrise/Julie White/Douglas M White/$6,500/0/0-43.927
4/Delta Pablo Van Papingro/Damian Gardiner/Delta Farm/$4,000/0/0-47.491
5/Loreto/Javier Fernandez/Charles R. Parks/$3,000/0/4-39.517
6/Fabius/Steve Bond/Steve Bond/$2,500/0/4-40.129
7/Valkyrie/Carol Wright/Ken Williamson/$2,000/0/4-41.154
8/Alcatraz 34/Jenni Martin/Augustin Walch/$1,500/0/4-41.991
9/Lapaloupe/Ashlee Bond/Ashlee Bond/$1,500/0/8-40.846
10/Prinzess/Andrea Hill/Rudy Leone & Leone Equestrian/$1,000/0/4/NA
11/Pablo/Ashlee Bond/Ashlee Bond/$1,000/4/NA
12/Kings Road/Jill Weaver/Jill Weaver/$1,000/4/NA

Number of horses that competed in this class: 20
Class Prize Money: $50,000

Week I June 27-July 1
Week II July 4-8
Week III July 11-15
Week IV July 18-22
$50,000 Cosequin® Grand Prix Sunday, July 1 1pm
$50,000 EMO Grand Prix Sunday, July 8 1pm
$50,000 Coldwell Banker ITILDO Grand Prix Sunday, July 15 1pm
$100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix Sunday, July 22 1pm
Resort Sports Network's Kids Day presented Sunday, July 8 10am-1pm
by Douglas County Parks and Recreation
Department and Douglas County Library
Seniors Day presented by Douglas Sunday, July 22 10am-1pm
County Senior Services and Douglas County Library

DIRECTIONS: From the Reno/Tahoe airport (about 40 miles), travel south on Highway 395 to Minden; at Stockyard Road, turn left; show grounds entrance is on the left. From Lake Tahoe (about 12 miles), take Route 207 (Kingsbury Grade), cross Foothill Road to Mottsville, proceed 3 miles; turn left onto State Highway 395 North; turn right at Stockyard Road; show grounds entrance is on the left. From Minden (about 2 miles), follow 395 North; turn right at Stockyard Road; show grounds entrance is on the left.

HITS TAHOE: 1901 N. Hwy. 395, Minden, Nevada, 89423. Phone during show dates: 775-783-8907.

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