On the heels of a win in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix with Son of a Gun, John Pearce of Bermuda Dunes, California jumped his way to another blue on Sunday in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented, by Zoetis, this time aboard Forest View Farm’s Chianto. Celebration, however, soon turned to focus as all attention soon turned to preparation for next Sunday’s Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix.

“Sometimes you don’t think that much about winning, you just want to jump well and you end up getting lucky. That’s what happened here today,” said Pearce, who has been partnered with Chianto for six years.

The pair has won countless grand prix together and is proof that a solid bond between horse and rider play an important role in winning blue ribbons. Pearce admits that Chianto won’t jump again until the Zoetis Million – his plan is to keep the gelding as fresh as possible. Chianto was double clear on Friday for fifth place with Pearce in the irons, and was double clear again on Sunday to win, putting the duo on an unofficial “hot streak” heading into next Sunday’s big ticket class.

Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida set a challenging course for the $50,000 Grand Prix, which included 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts. The combinations posed the most difficult questions with a one stride oxer-vertical double at fence six and a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination set as two strides to one stride. Combined, the two obstacles shattered 10 fault-free rounds with rails coming down.

During the first round, it appeared that a Canadian vs. Canadian duel in the jump-off was a real possibility as Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ontario guided both IV Ever and George, owned by B Gingras Equestrian, Ltd. to clear efforts to join Pearce. However, Americans Laura Chapot of Neshanic Station, New Jersey on Quointreau Un Prince, owned by herself and McClain Ward, as well as Peter Wylde of Lake Worth, Florida with Lewin 5, owned by Societe Civile de L’Ecurie Meautry, added their names to the list to cap the jump-off.

Henselwood returned first with IV Ever and set the Great American Time to Beat at 49.82 seconds. Pearce and Chianto followed, shaving a full six seconds off Henselwood’s time in 43.80 seconds. “I didn’t really think I pushed him in the jump-off because we are preparing for bigger and better things, but I know him so well that we are able to turn on a dime and leave out strides anywhere without really pushing it,” said Pearce.

Rather than speed, Peace aimed for efficiency, establishing a big step to the first fence and maintaining it throughout the course. “My main goal was just to stay out of Chianto’s way,” he said.

Henselwood challenged the clock with George and finished the short track in 47.60 seconds, which landed her in second. She was also third with IV Ever. Chapot and Quointreau Un Prince were fourth and Wylde rounded out the top five with Lewin 5.

Pearce was also eighth with Son of a Gun and tenth with Johnny B Good, both owned by Forest View Farm. Johnny B Good, a young jumper stepped up to the challenges offered by the course and Son of a Gun gave it all he had after running to a win in Friday’s grand prix. “The old man is the one who pulled it off,” said Pearce of the 17-year-old Chianto, who has won over $1 million in prize money since Pearce bought the gelding as an eleven year old.

Pearce is looking forward to another shot at $1 million after finishing third in the Pfizer Million in 2010 and second in this winter’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Thermal. Grand prix action will return to HITS Saugerties on Friday as the $30,000 SmartPak Wild Card Grand Prix will offer the class winner a wild card berth in the Zoetis Million, which will welcome top international riders and their horses as HITS, once again, offers $1 million in prize money.