Next week, John Perez’s daughter is graduating from high school. But it was the Colombian rider who was top of the class on Sunday at Spruce Meadows.
Nineteen combinations contested Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) course in the CSI5* Continental Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, at the iconic venue in Calgary, AB. The 13-obstacle (16 jumping efforts) track caught out many proven 1.60m winners, among them Kent Farrington (USA) and Landon, Rowan Willis (AUS) and Blue Movie, and Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Igor van de Wittemoere.
By first round’s end, four advanced to the short course. And all four jumped double clear. But Perez and Gigi-Carmen were simply in a class of their own.
Last to return, the pair lay down a blistering track to stop the clock at 45.32 seconds. It was over two seconds faster than runners up Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Arna ‘t Kruisveld’s time of 47.53. Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fasther completed the podium, but were a full second slower still in 48.46. Mario Deslauriers and Bardolina 22 took fourth in a distant 51.22.
“The mare is fantastic. The quality is incredible. She’s quick. She’s fast. She’s a little special in the warm up with the other horses. But in the ring she knows how to do her job,” smiled the Pan American Games team bronze medalist.
Perez has every reason to be optimistic about the partnership.
The win marks his and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare’s second 1.60m Grand Prix victory in three months and their second 5* win of the week.
In March, they captured their first CSI5* Grand Prix title in Coapexpan, Mexico. On Thursday, they started the Spruce Meadows Summer Series with a win in the The Entourage Jumper CSI5* 1.45m speed class, again finishing immediately ahead of Kenny and Arna ‘t Kruisveld. This time by over seven seconds. And as the only pair to finish under the 70 second mark. (Perez crossed the timers in 68.30 to Kenny’s 75.89).
More telling still is the timing.
Perez has been in the stirrups since 2021, taking over the ride from Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia (MEX) in 2021. He moved the mare up to the 1.60m height in 2022, contesting just two rounds at the height to mixed results.
This season, the tides appear to have turned. They’ve finished in the top ten of all four rounds they’ve jumped at 1.60m, twice taking the win. The pair has accrued nearly 300,000 euro in prize money and 15 international podium finishes to date, according to Jumpr App, and at just 12, the mare is only just getting started.
The week wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Perez and Gigi-Carmen also contested Saturday’s 1.50m Township Planning Cup but retired after the martingale broke mid course and the pair had two rails down.
“[Saturday] I had a little bit of a tough day,” said Perez.
“[Sunday], it paid off!”