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Richard Spooner claims a win as AIG Million week arrives at HITS Thermal

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Richard Spooner and Cristallo. Photo by ©Flying Horse Photography.Richard Spooner and Cristallo were as in sync as ever on Sunday to win the $50,000 CardFlex Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, at HITS Thermal. The final qualifier before the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, Sunday's grand prix was met with blue skies and fierce competition. After a second-place finish on Friday, Spooner is sitting pretty on a blue ribbon before the stakes climb higher.

Bernardo Cabral of Carnaxide, Portugal designed Sunday's course as he prepares to design the course for the debut of the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix in two weeks. "When you have fantastic riders, they make your course look good and I was overwhelmed with how great the sport was today," said Cabral. "I tried to be delicate – I wanted the best to make it to the jump-off, but not give the less experienced a bad day. I think the course did just that."

Spooner, who piloted two mounts over Cabral's course, was complimentary. "It was plenty tricky, but there were no traps," he said. "He tightened the screw on us with the time allowed, but I see him quite frequently in international competition and I think overall he did a great job."

The first-round track included three double combinations, but faults were spread evenly throughout the course. Spooner picked up a single time fault in a brilliant ride aboard SN Stables, LLC's Chivas Z to keep him from the jump-off, but returned 41st in the 42-horse order determined to advance. Well under the first round time allowed, he piloted Cristallo, owned by Show Jumping Syndications, into an eight-horse jump-off.

"We've been everywhere and done everything together," said Spooner of the 16-year-old Cristallo who has been a top mount for Spooner the past nine years. "I'm not sure where I would be without him, but it certainly wouldn't be the winner's circle."

Mandy Porter of Encinitas, California jumped a high-spirited Con Capilot to an early clear round in the jump-off, posting the Great American Time to Beat at 44.72 seconds. Ashlee Bond Clarke of Hidden hills, California returned next and quickly stole the lead on Little Valley Farms' Agro Star with a time of 44.56 seconds.

The next clear round came from Spooner and Cristallo. Their time of 42.72 seconds seemed to be enough for the win, but Spooner was not quick to start counting his prize money. Bond Clarke returned last with her second ride of the jump-off. "Ashlee is a brilliant competitor and she has the ability and the speed to beat anyone at any time," said Spooner.

Bond Clarke rode Little Valley Farms' Chela LS clear in 43.44 seconds, just fractions shy of the win. She ended in second with Chela LS and third on Agro Star. Porter and Con Capilot landed fourth, while Enrique Gonzalez of Encinitas, California capped the top five in the irons of his own Quilebo Du Tillard. They posted a time of 45.76 seconds with four faults.

With the AIG Million just five days away, Spooner has confidence that Cristallo will rise to the occasion. "You never know what a course designer is going to throw at you at that level," he said. "It's in my best interested to choose the horse who has already seen it all. When the jumps get bigger, Cristallo gets better, so we will see what happens on Sunday."

Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.

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