John Pearce and Chantico, owned by Karen Ball of Trabuco Canyon, set the stage and never looked back in this weekend’s $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix, presented by The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel at the Blenheim June Classic III.
It was an exciting afternoon of world-class show jumping and first-class hospitality at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano as twenty-four horse/rider combinations battled for their place on the podium.
Course designer Oscar Soberon, of Dallas, TX, engineered a challenging 1.45m track on the Oaks International Grand Prix field that included several large bending lines that made use of the entire arena. Tight combinations, including a triple, placed at the far end of the ring followed by a solid square oxer to finish, tested the athleticism and endurance of each horse.
Time also proved to be a factor with only half of the field managing to navigate the fifteen jumping efforts within the time allowed of 88 seconds. Pearce and Chantico were first on course and set the bar high with a clear round in 84.605 seconds. However, it wasn’t until the thirteenth rider, Nicole Haunert aboard Calgary IV, owned by Cherokee Show Horses, Inc., that there was a second clear round.
With only five pairs remaining, Judy Nielson and Costo Rico had the crowd on their feet and cheering as she raced over the final jump only to be followed by a collective groan as a single time fault registered on the scoreboard.
Nicole Haunert, second to last in the order and aboard her third mount of the day, Concule, once again managed to negotiate the course without pulling a rail, but her two time faults would eventually land her in fourth place.
Returning for the jump-off round, Pearce showcased his experience as a former Olympian for team Canada and veteran of two FEI World Equestrian Games as he sliced fences and took out strides, executing tight roll-backs and jumping clean in a lightning 46.292 seconds.
Haunert, a Markel Insurance Grand Prix winner earlier in the year, was now the only one standing between Pearce and the victory. Knowing she had to go clear and faster, she and Calgary IV gave it their best, however, she could not keep up with Pearce and Chantico, eventually crossing the timers in 49.703 seconds resulting in a second place finish.
“It was a little bit of a course of endurance” Pearce remarked during his post-win interview. “Chantico is a 14-year old Oldenburg that I’ve had for about five years. He just started being successful in the grand prix last fall with a lot of success this spring. He’s a very competitive horse with a lot of heart and he’s super athletic.”
This is the sixth of thirteen qualifying events in the Markel Insurance 1.45m Jumper Series to be held throughout the Blenheim EquiSports 2019 Horse Show Season, with the Final to be held during The Las Vegas National, November 11 – 17, 2019.
Competition continues next week with the Blenheim Red White and Blue Classic featuring the seventh $25,000 Markel 1.45m Grand Prix (and Independence Day Costume Pair Relay), the $7,500 Antares Sellier 1.35m Open Jumper Classic, Short Stirrup, Green Rider Low Children’s Adult Hunter Classics, and much more!
$25,000 Markel Insurance 1.45M Grand Prix
Place – Entry Number – Horse – Rider – Owner – Faults/Time
1. 530 – Chantico – John Pearce – Karen Ball – 0/0/46.294
2. 387 – Calgary IV – Nicole Haunert – Cherokee Show Horses Inc – 0/0/49.703
3. 639 – Costo Rico – Judy Nielson – Megan Bielinski – 1/88.542
4. 388 – Concolue – Nicole Haunert – Cherokee Show Horses Inc. – 2/89.978
5. 531 – Firestone – John Pearce – Janet Teague – 4/82.371
6. 658 – Dudallah – Jeffrey Fields – Halland Mckenna – 4/83.001
7. 644 – Cavalos – Lisa McCluskey – Lisa McCluskey – 4/86.378
8. 498 – Samba de Landelta Z – James Mcdonald – Diana Mcdonald – 4/86.928
9. 383 – Certain VD Begijnakker – Zume Gallaher – Blue Gate Stables, LLC – 4/87.87.311
10. 285 – Crack One – Emily Esau-Willams – Ixchel Mosley – 5/88.928