An enthusiastic crowd of spectators gathered as the day’s feature event got underway at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, CA. For the second time in two weeks, Nicole Haunert and John Pearce battled for the top spot in the $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix. After finishing in second place last Saturday, this week it was Nicole’s turn to lead the victory gallop as she and Calgary IV, owned by Cherokee Show Horses Inc., wrapped up a very successful June series at the Blenheim Red, White and Blue Classic. John Pearce and his mount, Chantico, owned by Karen Ball finished in second place.
Nicole Haunert aboard Calgary IV clearing the final oxer for the win. Photo by McCool Photography
International course designer Mauricio Garcia of Puerto Rico, built a technical 1.45m track on The Oaks International Grand Prix field. “I like to work with the materials”, Garcia remarked before the event. “The quality of the jumps at Blenheim shows is outstanding. Today I was trying to keep the horses thinking by alternating between light, airy looking jumps and solid, filled obstacles.” Time also played a factor, with half of the field picking up time penalties in the first round.
At the conclusion of round one, the only pair able to master Garcia’s course without accumulating any faults were John Pearce and Chantico. However, because this week’s Grand Prix was run as USEF Table II, 2(e), the top six riders were invited back, although carrying their faults into the second round.
John Pearce and Chantico. Photo by McCool Photography
The jump-off track proved equally challenging, seeing the first two riders, Marcelo De Los Santos Jr. aboard Cayetana, and Allison LaJoie on Delmonde, accumulating additional faults.
First to go clear in the second round, Michelle Parker and Guess, finished their jump-off in a respectable 47.727 seconds. However, their eight faults carried over from the first round would eventually land them in third place.
Up next, John Pearce and Seven Seas added six faults to their five-fault first round.
Following Pearce and carrying over a single time fault from round one, Haunert and Calgary IV dashed around the track with speed and precision, finishing clear in only 46.460 seconds
Last in the order, John Pearce returned with Chantico, knowing that they needed to go clean in order to earn back-to-back series victories. Unfortunately, an early rail cost them four faults, resulting in a second place finish
Nicole Haunert on Calgary IV with Paul and Ryan Haunert from Tristar Farms and Melissa Brandes of Blenheim EquiSports. Photo by McCool Photography
This is only the second grand prix and sixth class overall for the pairing of Calgary IV and Nicole Haunert. Haunert, who currently sits atop the leaderboard in the Markel Insurance 1.45m Jumper Series, commented after her win, “I thought it was a great course; technical with a tight time. He [Mauricio Garcia ] did a wonderful job. today’s course was excellent. Calgary IV is an absolute blast to ride. I’m so grateful that I get to ride her and so grateful for Jill Hunter-Hensley for purchasing her.”