The crowd had plenty to cheer about as Canadian rider John Pearce and his majestic grey mount Chianto sped to victory in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, on Sunday.With 10 making it into the jump-off from a field of 55 starters, there was no question that the final round would provide a fast and furious finish to HITS Desert Circuit IV. And it did. Pearce’s jump-off time of 39.56 seconds was less than a half-second faster than Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s 39.96 second-place finish on Octavia Farms’ Malou. In third, Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez and his own Quilebo Du Tillard broke the beam at 40.97 seconds.
Saer Coulter of San Francisco, California, was fourth, clocking in at 41.458 seconds on Copernicus Stables’ Don VHP Z, and Jill Henselwood, another Canadian rider, with Juniper Farms’ New Idol Z were fifth with a jump-off time of 42.98 seconds. “From beginning to end, it was a very technical course, and very hard to jump clean,” Pearce said after the class, adding, “I never go into a jump-off not trying to win. Chianto and I gave it everything we had and it worked.” In addition to Chianto, Pearce competed his own Son of a Gun.
The afternoon unfolded under picture-perfect California skies – sunny and about 75 degrees. The field took to German designer Olaf Petersen, Jr.’s round-one course of 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts. Sixteen rounds later, the audience got its first clear round from Mexico’s Gonzalez and Quilebo Du Tillard, followed by two more perfect tours, from Canada’s Tammie Philips and her own Lerche 37 – who ultimately finished ninth – and Coulter with Don VHP Z.
The other clears were evenly spaced through the remaining order of 37 rides, making for intense bursts of excitement as Egypt’s Nayel Nassar rode out, 25th in the order on his own Lordan and delivered a clean tour and was followed three rounds later by Coulter and Carmena Z, then Pearce and Chianto.
“For a $30,000 course, it was plenty scopey,” Pearce added. “The triple combination made the horses work very hard.” The time-allowed of 79 seconds was generous, resulting in few time faults other than in cases where refusals factored in.
The top 12 riders in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis, earned valuable prize money and another week’s qualification for the highly-anticipated AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, taking place March 17.