That's a Wrap for HITS Coachella!

Beezie Madden Completes Career Triple Crown

That’s a Wrap for the 2019 Edition of HITS Coachella Desert Circuit

What a year it’s been in the Desert! The HITS Coachella Desert Circuit concluded its eight-week long circuit with a number of special events at the AON HITS Desert Horse Park. From the seventh-annual AIG $1 Million Grand Prix to the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, and of course the 2nd-Half and Overall Grand Circuit Champion Awards, history was made in the final week in the Desert.
The AIG $1 Million Grand Prix draws in high performance riders from across the country and around the world. Not only is this the seventh-annual AIG Million, but it is also the 20th HITS Million Grand Prix in total. “It’s great when our horse show can attract such top riders so we are proud of that, and I am proud of my whole HITS team. I thought today was great sport,” commented Tom Struzzieri, President and CEO of HITS. The competition was tough with several HITS Million title holders hungry for another shot at the top prize.
Beezie Madden and DARRY LOU would take home the top honors in a time of 38.430. DARRY LOU is a 2008 Dutch Warmblood stallion, owned by Abigail Wexner. “He’s [DARRY LOU] a really sweet horse and in a way he is kind of cocky because he is so easy going and doesn’t get ruffled by anything,” Madden stated. “I have to try to fire him up a little bit and he seems to respond to that really well. He lulls you into going around like a hunter, but when I energize him a little bit he gets more spark,” she added.
“It’s really fun to come out to a fresh place with fresher weather. It’s great to come see different people, a different ring, and a different super course designer,” said Madden. “I love to support what Tom and AIG do, I think it’s fantastic and I think we should all support it, so that’s what I try to do.” This year Madden returned second to go in the jump-off. “I knew I had really fast ones behind me so I wanted to really lay one down. I think in hindsight I could have been beaten up the first line, I chickened out a little on leaving a stride out there, but I was quite fast everywhere else so it took a little bit of a risk everywhere else to beat us,” Madden stated, discussing her strategy in the jump-off.
Madden is the first rider to win a HITS Million in each location it has been held and also winning two in a row! Madden won her first Million in 2015 at HITS Saugerties aboard SIMON. Just last year, she took home the 2018 Great American $1 Million Grand Prix title at HITS Ocala with COACH and followed that up with a win this year at HITS Coachella!
Top: Beezie Madden and DARRY LOU in the 2019 AIG $1 Million Grand Prix.
Bottom Left: Madden and SIMON in the 2015 HITS Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix.
Bottom Right: Madden and COACH in the 2018 Great American $1 Million Grand Prix.
A familiar face to see in the Winner’s Circle at the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, and last year’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix winner, would take home the red rosette. That was two-time HITS Million Champion, Nayel Nassar and his long-time partner LORDAN, jumping off in a time of 38.945. “I was standing at the in-gate watching Beezie and I realized that I was probably aiming for second today," said Nassar. "She was really quick and really fast in her turns everywhere and I knew that the priority was to leave the jumps up today. If I took too much risk, I would have risked having one down so I tried to do the most efficient round I could without over-pushing anywhere.” This team has competed in several HITS Million Grand Prix, with Nassar holding the record as the youngest rider to ever win a HITS Million, when he first took home top honors aboard LORDAN at the 2013 HITS Saugerties Million at the age of 22. “Honestly, this feels like a win to me, there is no shame in losing to Beezie. The horse [LORDAN] feels great, he’s 15 and is still jumping fresh, so I am just really happy about that and I am looking forward to Ocala next week.”

The pressure was on for Ali Ramsay, an up-and-coming Canadian rider, as the last to go in the jump-off. “It [going last in the jump-off] worked for me when I won the Grand Prix in week four, so I was actually feeling pretty confident,” Ramsay joked. Ramsay took home third place for her ride aboard HERMELIEN VD HOOGHOEVE as they crossed the timers in 39.135. Ramsay has spent her winter out here for the entire HITS Coachella Desert Circuit. “I think it takes a lot of planning to try to peak this last week and I think we did a pretty nice job of hitting the weeks that we had to. She [HERMELIEN VD HOOGHOEVE] only jumped Sundays, she never jumped the Friday class, and I was able to do just the right amount that she was trying to buck me off in the warm-up ring so she was still nice and fresh,” said Ramsay.
  • 4th Place: Erynn Ballard & FELLINI S (40.241)
  • 5th Place: Rown Willis & BLUE MOVIE (37.410, 4-Faults)
  • 6th Place: Andre Thieme & ARETINO 13 (39.656, 4-Faults)
Course designer Bernardo Cabral had set a goal for the AIG Million and he hit the nail on the head. "I tried to create some alterations in the rhythm of horse and rider to try and make the rider make a mistake and have a rail down here and there. I think that just happened like I planed it," Cabral said.  "The first line of the course rode more delicatly than  I had anticipated and produced a lot of soft 4 faults, which I personally love. So on the global I was even more pleased that the course rode evenly challenging, and not easy in one spot and too difficult in others."
Other featured Open Jumper Classes at Desert Circuit VIII:

$5,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome
1st Place: Nassar & DEE JEE (29.013)
2nd Place: Will Simpson & WHOOP DE DOO (29.183)
3rd Place: Richard Spooner & ZUIDHOEVE (29.252)
$30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix
1st Place: Jim Ifko & UN DIAMANT DES FORETS (34.945)
2nd Place: Ifko & CELINE LA SILLA ( 36.854)
3rd Place: Ramsay & CASINO (37.399)

$15,000 KindredBio Jumper Classic
1st Place: Karl Cook & MENELIK (35.220)
2nd Place: Spooner & ZUIDHOEVE (35.298)
3rd Place: Cassio Rivetti & GRACILE (35.525)
Top honors in the $1,000 Charles White Hay Sales U25 Classic went to Natalie Dean & DON'S DIAMANT.

Eric Krawitt & WELLINGTON rode home with the blue ribbon in the $3,000 Junior 1.20m Jumper Classic with Jayme Omand & ZADOR claiming the first place ribbon in the $3,000 A-O/Am 1.20m Jumper Classic for the second week in the row.

The stakes increased to $10,000 in the Jr/A-O/Am 1.35m Jumper Classic where Krawitt would add another top placing to his collection, this time aboard HIGH JACK.

Katelyn Denbey Edwards & ESCAPADO S jumped to a first place finish in the $25,000 Jr/A-O/Am 1.45m Jumper Classic.
It was a special week for hunters as well, featuring the second $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby of the season, held on the new Grass Field at the HTS Coachella Desert Circuit. Taking home the Champion title was Nick Haness for his ride aboard VERDICT. Haness scored a 181 in the first round of competition, which put him in second place going into the handy hunter round. A score of 195 in the handy would be good for second place, but two strong scores totaling 376 would place him first overall.
Second place was awarded to Jamie Sailor and QUARTERNOTE. Sailor came back in the third position from the first round with a score of 178 and a second round score of 178 and 194.5 for a cumulative score of 372.5.

Rounding out the top three in the class were Augusta Iwasaki and VANDERPUMP with a total score of 370.25. Iwasaki moved up in the standings from her first round where she was fifth with a score of 175.25. A solid score of 195 would take the lead for the second round and move her up to third place overall.
$2,500 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix
  • 1st Place: Nicole Lean & GRANDE NOIR (167)
  • 2nd Place: Adrienne Berg & SWAN SONG (163)
  • 3rd Place: Laura Owens & EURYTHMIC (157)
Week VIII is also special for equitation riders as it is host to the R.W. Mutch Equitation Championships. Taking home the blue rosette and hand painted trophy was Emma Pacyna. Pacyna was the last to see in Round One and finished with a score of 182, and when combined with her score of 185 from Round Two, earned Pacyna a combined score of 367.
  • 2nd Place: Iwasaki (348.5)
  • 3rd Place: Emma Catherine Reichow (348)
On top of all the excitement this week, there were several special awards presented prior to the AIG $ 1 Million Grand Prix.
  • Donna Vale Sportsmanship Award: Macella O'Neill
  • Platinum Performance Leading Rider: Nicole Lean
  • KindredBio Leading Rider: Karl Cook
  • Summit Joint Performance Leading Rider: Zazou Hoffman
  • Winner of the Purina Golf Cat Giveaway: Nick Haness
  • Feed Greatness Cooler Consolation Prize: Heidi Kane
Stay tuned as top equestrians head east to HITS Ocala for the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, March 24 at HITS Post Time Farm. Make your plans today, whether you're interested in showing or just coming to spectate! For a complete listing of results, head to Follow all of the excitement on social media or watch LIVE on ShowHorse TV!
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