Articles: Press Release
Pearce Brings Champagne for $30,000 Ariat Grand Prix Win at Indio
PHOTO CREDIT: John Pearce and Champagne win $30,000 Ariat Grand Prix at
Indio. Photo by Joshua Walker.
Joshua Walker for PhelpsSports.com
Kenneth Kraus of Phelps Media Group, Inc.
at (561) 753-3389 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Indio, CA - January 27, 2006 - The Canadians enjoyed a break from the
sub-zero northern temperatures as they heated up the competition during
the summer-like January afternoon at HITS Desert Horse Park. John
Pearce, of Stouffville, Ontario, popped the cork and took a victory lap
aboard his long-time mount, Champagne, after winning the season's
opening $30,000 Ariat Grand Prix Championship. Jill Henselwood, of
Oxford Mills, Ontario, iced Canada's cake aboard her mount, Black Ice,
finishing less than one second behind Pearce in the jump-off.
Pearce and his 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding have entertained
equestrian enthusiasts and proved their ability in the ring for more
than 4 years including some 25 Grand Prix wins and a position on the
Canadian Equestrian Team. As his sole rider, Pearce seems to share a
quiet confidence and genuine communication with Champagne in the ring
and the pair kicked off this season in signature form with sound poise
and precision maneuvering.
"It definitely felt good for the first Grand Prix of the circuit," said
Pearce. "There was no real pressure because I just wanted to see where
my horses were at. They've had a few months off and sometimes it takes a
little bit for them to get back in the groove. But it's always great
when they just come right out of the gate like that."
Especially after making the 60-hour trek from Ontario to Indio.
Returning to Indio this year, Pearce explained that venturing from
Ontario's freezing temperatures to a 75-degree California "winter"
without a reasonable acclimatization period, places a great deal of
physical stress on horses. For this reason, Pearce embarked on the
journey a month early to allow Champagne and his other mounts ample time
to adapt to warm weather and humidity change.
"I definitely feel like there is an advantage to being here a month
early and getting 'climatized' before competing," said Pearce. "And it
was a great course for the first day-fair and not to long," Pearce
He also took advantage to enter three horses in the class, which
afforded more opportunity to solve the course. "I did have a trouble on
[the fourth fence, triple combination] with my young horse, Archie
Bunker, but I made sure I didn't make that same mistake twice."
Designer, William "Buddy" Brown, created a formidable test that sent the
first 15 horse and rider combinations back to their stables with faults
on the board before Kristen Coe and Conejo finally cracked the code.
After her clear round, the floodgates opened, and 6 more riders posted
Brown said of his course design, "Usually for a Grand Prix I shoot for 6
to 8 clean. I hit it with 7 this time, so overall I was happy."
Henselwood was fourth to go clean aboard her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood
gelding, Black Ice, preceding Pearce in the order of go. She remarked on
the course's initially challenging questions: "For awhile it was looking
like nobody was actually going to answer the questions of the course.
The riders were trying to figure out the pieces," said Henselwood. "Once
it was analyzed, all of the sudden there were clean rounds, one after
During the jump-off, Henselwood and Black Ice flawlessly navigated the
fences in 40.77 seconds, but lost 1 second to Pearce and Champagne's
"[Black Ice] was so eager to come ahead, he was still plunging forward
and had a little too much momentum into the turn on the last jump," said
Henselwood. "But I think he'll start to think ahead in the jump-offs
with more practice. That's the mission for this tour; to get him faster
and faster and doing those turns."
Henselwood remains confident that this year will continue Black Ice's
winning campaign he began last year at the Pennsylvania National
(Harrisburg, PA), Washington International (Washington, DC) and Royal
Winter Fair (Ontario, Canada) horseshows. "Every time the gate opens and
there is big prize money, Black Ice will attend. He's my lead horse on
But beyond the questions of this course's stood the undeniable presence
of crowd favorites, Richard Spooner and his renowned grey mount,
Robinson. "Robinson, by far, was the biggest threat of the group because
he's so experienced and is an extremely fast horse," said Pearce. "The
game's never over until Robinson is done."
Henselwood said of competing against Robinson and Champagne, "I just
thought I should do what I can with my own horse because he doesn't have
quite as much experience being extremely fast like Robinson and
Spooner and Robinson glided through round one with signature serenity
and style as expected. The duo took to the second round with a hardy
gallop worthy of another blazing victory, but despite finishing with a
top time of 38.12 seconds, the clap of a hoof on wood put the pair out
of contention at the second to last jump. "I pushed too hard," said
Spooner. "I should have added one more stride; but you win some, you
Pearce, Henselwood, Spooner and many other Grand Prix riders will
compete for over $1,000,000 in total prize money throughout the 6-week
span of the HITS Indio Desert Circuit.
Official Results: $30,000 Ariat Grand Prix, HITS Indio Desert Circuit I
- January 27, 2006
1 - Champagne- Forest View Farms- John Pearce - 0-0/39.78
2 - Black Ice- Stacie Ryan- Jill Henselwood - 0-0/40.77
3 - Syndication- Debbie Burrow- Dick Carvin - 0-0/41.33
4 - Oxford- Elizabeth Easton- Elizabeth Easton - 0-0/44.52
5 - Plesant- Grey Wolf Farm LLC- Peter Pletcher - 0-0/46.00
6 - Robinson- Half Moon Bay Investment Group- Richard Spooner -
7 - Conejo- Equine Trading Company, Inc- Kristen Coe - 0-8/45.86
8 - Ezrah- S&B LLC Corp- Richard Spooner - 4 - 72.00
9 - Riva 49- Buckeye Creek Farms Inc- Jill Humphrey - 4 - 75.54
10 - Nicole- Mark Leyton- Jill Henselwood - 4
11 - Punker- John Endicott- Helen McNaught - 4
12 - Tedechine Sept- David M. Robinson- Eddie Macken - 4
PhelpsSports.com will cover these major upcoming events from Indio:
$30,000 Ariat Grand Prix - Every Friday, 1:00 p.m.
$50,000 EMO Grand Prix - Sunday January 29, 1:00 p.m.
$75,000 HITS Grand Prix - Sunday February 5, 1:00 p.m.
$75,000 Bayer Grand Prix - Sunday February 12, 1:00 p.m.
$75,000 Footings Unlimited Grand Prix - Sunday February 26, 1:00 p.m.
$75,000 Surpass Grand Prix - Sunday March 5, 1:00 p.m.
$150,000 Grand Prix of the Desert - Sunday March 12, 1:00 p.m.
Josh Walker anchors the coverage of California and the West Coast for
PhelpsSports.com. Look for the debut of this new website in late August.
PhelpsSports.com is a new and highly innovative equestrian sports
website offering equestrians and fans of equestrian sports from around
the world a single web address for the latest breaking news of the
Hunter, Jumper, Dressage, Eventing and other High Performance
disciplines. The website will include up to the minute audio reports,
live video interviews and features from around the globe, photography,
and the creative writing and reporting of some of the finest equestrian
journalists in the world.