Canadian Olympian and show jumping star and HITS Thermal regular John Pearce brought his talents to the East Coast once again as he pursues the coveted Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. Pearce arrived for HITS-on-the-Hudson VII and easily gained his footing in the Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix Stadium with a win in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, on Sunday aboard Allison Moore’s Chianto.
Sunday’s course was designed by Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida and 27 horse-and-rider combinations attempted to challenge the track. At the end of the first round, the playing field was trimmed to five, and set up an exciting jump-off with a mix of some of the best athletes coast-to-coast. “I thought today’s course was good – it had some different lines and the jump-off was quite a challenge. I pretty much had to throw all caution to the wind to leave out the strides and go fast enough to win,” said Pearce. “Chianto jumped great today and he is in perfect condition for the [Pfizer] Million.”
The jump-off appeared similar to Friday’s SmartPak Grand Prix with the lineup of riders, as Laura Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey, looked to earn her second win of the week and add to her already impressive four Grand Prix wins this season. Chapot was first in the jump-off and fastest the speed bar high. She and Quointreau Un Prince, owned by Chapot and McLain Ward, set the Great American Time to Beat at 43.43 seconds in a clear effort.
Next to challenge the clock was another HITS Thermal competitor Duncan McFarlane and Simone Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy. The duo narrowed in on Chapot’s time finishing in 43.61 seconds, but the back rail of the 4 a-b combination gave them four faults and a fourth place finish. McFarlane, of San Ramon, California, was the second place finisher in last year’s Pfizer Million and he and Mr. Whoopy are eager to make their third appearance together in the annual event this Sunday.
Pearce and Chianto were next to show and had the win in mind. In Friday’s SmartPak Grand Prix, Pearce and Chianto fell short, finishing in second place behind Chapot. The duo displayed an amazingly fast ride, crossing the timers in 39.64 seconds, nearly four seconds ahead of the leading time. “I got him [Chianto] when he was 12 and he was really strong, very nervous and pretty difficult,” said Pearce of the 16 year Danish Warmblood gelding. “I worked with him for about a year and it has been a fairytale ever since – he’s just a great horse.”
Recent London Olympian Matt Williams (Australia) of Wellington, Florida and Samantha Tuerk’s Watch Me VD Mangelaar were next to jump-off. The team put down a clear effort in 42.11 seconds, a second faster than Chapot to take over the second place spot. Fellow HITS Thermal star John McConnell of Lemitar, New Mexico was the last to jump-off with Rancho Corazon, LLC’s Katie Riddle and rounded out the fifth place ribbon with a four fault round in 46.11 seconds and handed Pearce his first victory this year in Saugerties.
“Tom [Struzzieri] and HITS have been diligent over the years to bring real prize money to this sport,” said Pearce. “Classes like the [Pfizer] Million are a great opportunity for so many riders and it gives us something to really look forward to.” Pearce also picked up the 12th place ribbon aboard Forest View Farm’s Johnny B Good.
The most anticipated week of show jumping in the country is here as HITS Championship Weekend is just a few days away with the richest classes showcasing the talents of riders from around the world. The Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, HITS $250,000 Hunter Prix Final and Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix will be the year-end finale to another fantastic year at HITS. High-performance riders will have one more opportunity this week to qualify for the Pfizer Million when the $30,000 G&C Farm Wild Card Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, takes place on Friday.
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