Aaron Vale Claims Victory in the $34.6k FEI Thursday Prix at HITS Ocala

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Aaron Vale and Finou on their way to a $34,600 Thursday Prix win. Photo: ESI Photography

Ocala, Florida (February 20, 2016): The $34,600 FEI Thursday Prix went off without a hitch on Thursday as an impressive field of 76 riders and horses challenged the course set by course designer Alan Wade, of Tipperary, Ireland.

Not only were competitors vying for a prestigious FEI victory as the prelude to the 2016 Nations Cup at HITS Post Time Farm on Friday, but the class also served as a qualifying opportunity for the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix on Sunday, February 21.

Aaron Vale of Williston, Florida, has been a force to be reckoned this Circuit. With two Grand Prix victories and multiple top-five finishes already under his belt this circuit, the Hometown Hero of Ocala Show Jumping did not disappoint, winning the race against the clock.  “My goal was to be fast everywhere,” said Vale. “You had to be, the jump-off just got quicker and quicker, and it was a great class.” Indeed, all five top finishers jumped double-clear out of the 17 in the jump-off, and the time to beat seemed to get faster with every round.

The jump-off was designed around three lines that allowed riders to gallop and utilize their speed skills. Excitement burst in the stands as riders galloped to the in-and-out before turning to the last line which could be done in seven or eight strides, but where many a heartbreak came as rails fell and dashed the hopes of would-be winners. Of the top-five in the jump-off, the first to return Ali Wolff and Brianda, co-owned with John Wolff. They were the first to finish fault-free taking the lead as they crossed the timers in a brisk 39.77 seconds.

Lisa Goldman of Hawthorne Woods, Illinois, also a multiple Grand Prix winner this circuit, entered the ring a few trips later aboard Centurion B, owned by Goldman’s mother and trainer Mary Goldman. Hunting for another victory, Goldman attacked the course, angling fences and galloping across the ring to the final in-and-out before the homestretch line. They crossed the marker in 38.57 to take the lead but the ensuing rounds would only get faster.

Mexico’s Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado and Tino la Chapelle, owned by IIan Ferder galloped to the in and out, taking a tight turn before the final line to shave time off the clock and putting in a clear 37.25-second round to clock in almost a full second ahead of Goldman to top the leaderboard as the Mexican Team cheered in enthusiasm.

Vale and Finou 4, owned by Thinkslikeahorse and Donald Stewart, checked back in to the ring and the crowd was electric and chomping at the bit as Vale took up a gallop to the first fence.

“I didn’t get to watch Zendajas Salgado, but I knew if he had been faster than Lisa [Goldman], I had to be really, really fast if I was going to win.”

Vale took advantage of his horse’s big stride, leaving out strides in all three lines. “It felt like we were flying in that last gallop towards the in-and-out.  I just kept going until I saw the spot where I could relax and my horse just softened and mentally slowed down to jump up quite nicely.”

Vale kept the momentum going to the last line, doing the seven strides, edging out Zendejas Salgado just a tenth of second on 37.01 to take the lead.

Many valiant efforts followed Vale, including Christian Heineking and AJE Cluny, with a heartbreaking rail at the final fence for ninth-place and Molly Ashe, jumping clear to round out the top five with a time of 40.97.

The deal was sealed and Vale took home the win putting Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado and Tino la Chapelle in second-place and Lisa Goldman and Centurion B in third.

Place      Horse Owner Rider/Country Prize R.1 Faults JO Faults JO Time  
1 Finou 4 Thinks Like A Horse & Donald Stewart Aaron Vale/USA $11,418 0 0 37.01
2 Tino la Chapelle Ilan Ferder Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado / MEX $6,920 0 0
3 Centurion B
Mary Goldman
Lisa Goldman / USA $5,190 0 0 38.57
4 Brianda Ali & John Wolff Ali Wolff / USA $3,460 0 0 39.77
5 Pjotter van de Zonnehoeve Louisburg Farm Molly Ashe / USA $2,076 0 0 40.97
6 Brilliant du Rouet Liubov Kochetova & Roberto Teran Roberto Teran / COL $1,557 0 0 41.16
7 Uitteraard Stransky’s Mission Farms, Inc Mark Bluman / COL $1,038 0 4 38.33
Rocs to Riches
Lisa Goldman Lisa Goldman / USA $865 0 4 38.50
9 Basje The OhLaLa Group
Harold Chopping
 / CAN
$692 0 4 39.57
10 Corona Raylyn Farms, Inc. Marilyn Little / USA $692 0 4 39.60
11 Ora del Te di Ca San Giorgio  Ora del Te LLC Andrew Kocher / USA $346 0 4 40.80
12 Casper Sky Group Sharn Wordley / NZL $346 0 4 43.05