Twice as Nice for Canadian Olympian John Pearce and Son of a Gun

Thermal, CA (January 31, 2011)--Canadian Olympian John Pearce proved once again that he means business when he posted the fastest double-clear round aboard Forest View Farm's Sun of a Gun in Sunday's $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, to conclude the Desert Circuit I horse show at the HITS Desert Horse Park, in Thermal, California.

On the heels of his triumph aboard Forest View Farm's Chianto in Friday's $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, the decorated High-Performance rider made it two-in-a-row, outlasting the 37 starters that challenged Canadian builder Danny Foster's first-round track and the nine that advanced to the short course.

"Look at all this loot," said Pearce, who also was second aboard Son of a Gun in Friday's feature class. "He is really starting to come on strong. I bought him as a green horse and this is my third year riding him. He is 11 now, and really starting to come into his own."

Foster’s first-round track featured 14 fences with a time allowed of 94 seconds that provided the enthusiastic crowd with lots of excitement. At the conclusion of the first round, the jump-off was guaranteed to be thrilling with some of the best riders in the world dueling it out for first-place honors. Canadian Olympians John Pearce and Jill Henselwood, were joined in the jump-off by Richard Spooner, Francie Stienwedell-Carvin, Lucy Davis, Helen McNaught, John McConnell and Mexico's Eduardo Menezes.

"We had a tremendous group of riders come back for the jump-off," said Foster. "I wanted to get eight to 10 clear in the first round, and I got nine, so I thought that was just right. The horses were jumping great and the footing was perfect. It was a super ending to a perfect week in the desert."

First to show on Foster's seven-effort jump-off course was Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood aboard Juniper Farm's IV Ever. The horse-and-rider combination had two rails down resulting in eight faults and finished in ninth place.

One of the top young riders on the circuit, Lucy Davis (Los Angeles, California), aboard Old Oak Farm's Hannah, was next to challenge the jump-off course and had an unlucky rail down midway through the course, landing them in fifth place.

Pearce (Bermuda Dunes, California) and Son of a Gun were third in the jump-off order and made the dash for the cash setting the Great American Time to Beat at 43.797 seconds. That time ultimately proved to be untouchable as he collected $15,000 in first-place prize money for Forest View Farm.

The HITS Desert Circuit's all-time leading money winner, Richard Spooner (Aqua Dulce, California), got the first crack at Pearce's time when he rode Molly Ohrstom's Billy Bianca next on the short course. With seven faults, the pair ended up with an eighth-place finish.

Helen McNaught (San Ramon, California) and Caballo were fifth to show in the jump-off and the talented pair, who placed 13th in last year’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York, had the last rail down and finished Sunday’s class in sixth place.

Following McNaught in the jump-off was Eduardo Menezes (Carlsbad, California) riding his own Percynality Mercedes Benz. They were the fastest team with four faults in the jump-off, stopping the clocks in 42.530 seconds to score the yellow ribbon.

Francie Steinwedell-Carvin and Prentiss Partners' Taunus made a valiant effort to beat Pearce and Son of a Gun's time when they posted a clean round in 45.361 seconds. However, they still finished almost 2.0 seconds behind the leading combination's time and had to settle for second place.

Next, Henselwood returned for the jump-off aboard Special Ed. They were fast and clear heading to the final hurdle but experienced heartbreak when the very last rail came down. Their time of 42.661 seconds would have been good enough to take the lead, but instead they had to settle for fourth place.

"I had it," said Henselwood. "I was quicker. The back rail came down on me! "John didn't leave much room for anyone to catch him. He always rides so fast."

"Special Ed was so good today," added Henselwood. "He just keeps getting better with age. He is 17! I can't imagine how old he would be in human years."

"Canadians are fighters," said Pearce. "It's not a big group but it’s a good group. I know the ones that come all this way don't come to play checkers, they come to win!"

The enviable last-to-go spot belonged to John McConnell and Rancho Corazon's Katie Riddle. The pair had a rail down midway through the track and finished in seventh place.

With the win, Pearce is one step closer to making his return trip to the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix as he is on the right track to earn another spot in the second-annual Pfizer Million, which takes place on Sunday, September 11 at HITS-on-the-Hudson, in Saugerties, New York.

Action for the High-Performance riders at HITS Thermal continues during Desert Circuit II with three Grand Prix on the slate. The crown jewel of the week occurs on Saturday night when the $50,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, the first of four FEI World Cup Qualifiers, comes to town.

The 2011 HITS Desert Circuit will host a total of 16 Qualifying Grand Prix classes for the highly-anticipated Pfizer Million. Riders will need to bank eight qualifying classes to become eligible, and then the top 40 riders based on money won on their leading horse will earn their spot in the line-up for the class.  

HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS took the industry to new heights when it hosted the first-ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. HITS will once again offer the most innovative weekend in show jumping history in 2011 when it hosts the second annual Pfizer Million and the inaugural Diamond Mills $500,000 3'3" Hunter Prix Final, September 10 -11, at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York.

For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit Stay connected with HITS, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

$50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
1 Son of a Gun  Forest View Farm  John Pearce  $15,000 0 0 43.797
2 Taunus Prentiss Partners  Francie Steinwedell-Carvin $11,000 0 0 45.361
3 Percynality Mercedes Benz Eduardo Menezes Eduardo Menezes $6,500 0 4 42.530
4 Special Ed  Juniper Farms  Jill Henselwood  $4,000 0 4 42.661
5 Hannah Old Oak Farm  Lucy Davis  $3,000 0 4 44.183
6 Caballo Helen McNaught  Helen McNaught  $2,500 0 4 44.783
7 Katie Riddle  Rancho Corazon  John McConnell  $2,000 0 4 45.633
8 Billy Bianca  Molly Ohrstrom  Richard Spooner  $1,500 0 7 54.056
9 IV Ever  Juniper Farms  Jill Henselwood  $1,500 0 8 48.191
10 Vivacious C & M Partnership Caroline Lynn  $1,000 3     
11 Tomba Eduardo Menezes Eduardo Menezes $1,000 4     
12 Cruise Indigo Farms  Chris Pratt  $1,000 4     

Photo Credits:  Canadian Olympian John Pearce and Son of a Gun in the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health.  © Flying Horse Photography.
John Pearce is congratulated after winning the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Pearce is joined by HITS Senior Vice President Tony Hitchcock and representatives from EMO Insurance after his victory. © Flying Horse Photography.