Aaron Vale and Dress Balou Make Magic in Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final

Aaron Vale and Dress Balou claim the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final.©ESI Photography
Aaron Vale and Dress Balou claim the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final.©ESI Photography

Saugerties, NY (September 8, 2014) – Don Stewart called Aaron Vale 18 days ago and told him he had a horse Vale could win the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final with. Two weeks later Stewart’s premonition was spot on and his five-year old gelding, in Vale’s steady hands, landed them a $150,000 check.

“When I got the call from Don and went to sit on the horse [Dress Balou], I wasn’t sure he was the ride for me. He’s young and still in the ‘when you pull right I drift left’ stage,” said Vale [Williston, Florida] of the mount Stewart purchased from Kyle Dewar in April.

After a week’s worth of preparatory rounds during HITS Saugerties VII, Vale and Dress Balou set foot in the Outside Course to take a chance on $500,000. “I knew the jump would be there – his jump is always beautiful – but wasn’t sure he had the experience,” added Vale.

After a poetic performance in Friday’s first round, both panels of judges awarded scores of 93. “They were breathtaking,” said Stewart. “For judges who have never seen this horse before, it was impressive to earn such scores.”

Lindsay Yandon and Asia Manning of HITS present top honors, including a Horseware Ireland cooler and 50,000 winner's check to Aaron Vale and Dress Balou. ©ESI Photography
Lindsay Yandon and Asia Manning of HITS present top honors, including a Horseware Ireland cooler and 50,000 winner's check to Aaron Vale and Dress Balou. ©ESI Photography

Saturday however, wasn’t all smooth sailing for Vale and Dress Balou. A stumble after the first fence visibly shook horse and rider. But scores in the 80s kept the pair alive and guaranteed an appearance in the top 25 on Championship Sunday.

After scores were cleared from the previous two rounds on Sunday, riders were welcomed to a clean slate. “When I saw the ring Sunday morning thought my little horse was in way over his head,” said Stewart. “But Aaron instills confidence in every horse he rides. No one else could have done what he did with this horse.”

When called upon, Dress Balou rose to the occasion and carried Vale to top scores in both the third and fourth rounds on Sunday. Their overall 555 sent them straight to the winner’s circle after scores in the 90s from all three panels. While now confident in the young horse, Stewart and Vale weren’t always so sure.

“Balou looked special but I didn’t commit to buying him right away,” said Stewart. “It was the most money I’ve spent on a horse at that level, but I took a chance and it paid off today.”  

Remarkably, second behind Vale was Amanda Steege [Bedminster, New Jersey] and Dress Balou’s half-brother Balou. They returned to familiar territory in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final and landed on a combined score of 544. “I was third two years ago and love the format of this class no matter where I sit coming into the final two rounds,” said Steege of the fresh start presented in the third and fourth rounds. “Balou’s track record is that something usually goes terrible wrong on Friday and I have to put up an amazing score to make it to Sunday. This year we were second going into Saturday.”

Aaron Vale and Dress Balou take a victory gallop. ©ESI Photography
Aaron Vale and Dress Balou take a victory gallop. ©ESI Photography

Steege and Balou have a storied history, and won the $25,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS Ocala last winter. They reunited a month ago when Balou came to Steege from owner Lisa Arena Davis with the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix as their fall goal. “Lisa is pregnant, so Balou has been on maternity leave and we decided this would be his next big event,” she added.

Junior rider Hunter Holloway [Topeka, Kansas] was fourth in the 2013 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final and crept closer to the top this year riding Lyons Creek Bellini to third for owners Hays Investment Corp. Their final score was 536.

Patricia Griffith [New York, New York] has tasted big-money glory before after a win in 2012, but settled for fourth this year with new ride Black Label, owned by Maxwell Levy. “I think the horses jumped better this year than any year in the past – the courses were great, rings remarkable and the event impressive,” she said after finishing four points out of third on a 532.

With high-stakes hunter competition a clear favorite at the HITS Championship, HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri confirmed the classes are in Saugerties to stay. “If you don’t have hunters, it can’t be a true American Championship and what we saw this week was just that. I’m proud to host and say the riders at the top are some of our best clients,” he said. “This class is unique because riders only have one shot on one horse. The result was exciting competition all the way around.”

For complete results, click here.

About Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern
Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern is the Hudson Valley’s premier luxury property. Located just 100 miles north of New York City, nestled in the historic Village of Saugerties, New York, Diamond Mills is a 30-room boutique hotel featuring world-class accommodations, fine dining at The Tavern and full service events for up to 400 guests in its spectacular Ballroom perched above the Esopus Falls.  For more information, visit DiamondMillsHotel.com.

Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final
Place    Horse   Owner   Rider   Prize $     Rd 3 Score   Rd 4 Score
1 Dress Balou     Donald Stewart     Aaron Vale  $150,000  276  279
2 Balou  Lisa Arena Davis  Amanda Steege  $90,000  274     270
3 Lyons Creek Bellini     Hays Investment Corp.     Hunter Holloway  $60,000  263 273
4 Black Label  Maxwell Levy  Patricia Griffith     $40,000  264  268
5 Huehuetenango  Lavanta Coffee Roasters  Morgan Ward  $25,000  259.25 -
6 HH Gabriel  Double H Farm  Jimmy Torano  $20,000  256.5 -
7 Montenegro  Lilly Ulrich  Peter Wylde  $15,000  255 -
8 Playlist  Silver Spring Farm     Erynn Ballard  $12,000 254.5 -
9 Karmin  Four Winds Farm  Jenny Karazissis  $10,000  253.5 -
10 Crystal Clear  Hillside Farm LLC   Laena Romond  $9,000  252.75 -
11 MTM Retro  MTM Farm     Dorothy Douglas  $8,000  252 -
12 Prestige  Margaret Von Ebers  Sarah Barge  $7,000  251.5 -
13 Julian  Amanda Foard  Ashton Alexander  $6,000  248 -
13 Jade  David Raposa     David Raposa  $6,000  248 -
15 Quinn  Cailin Mc Namara  Brian Feigus  $5,000  247 -
16 Poker Face     Harris Hill Farm, Llc     Jennifer Bliss     $5,000     246.25 -
17 What About Me  Lynn Reed  Todd Minikus  $5,000  233     -
18 Inferno  Cloverlea Farm Inc     Tricia O'connor  $4,000  226 -
19 Relevant  Melissa Wight  Samantha Wight  $4,000  225 -
20 Maraschino  Linda Langmeier  Mckayla Langmeier  $4,000  212 -
21 Tradewind  Deeridge Farms  Brady Mitchell  $3,000  174      
22 Generous  Lori Gaudet  David Oliynyk  $3,000  138      
23 Caramo  Caroline Russell Howe  Harold Chopping  $3,000  135      
24 Comissario     Morgan Ward  John French  $3,000  134      
25 First & Goal  Peg Seals  Peg Seals  $3,000  128

Kimberly Maloomian and Urlala after their Platinum Performance $250,000 Hunter Prix Final win. ©ESI Photography
Kimberly Maloomian and Urlala after their Platinum Performance $250,000 Hunter Prix Final win. ©ESI Photography

Kimberly Maloomian Wins One for Mom
“The horse belongs to my mom, the check to my mom – I’m just here for the ride,” said Kimberly Maloomian [Needham, Massachusetts] after she and Urlala jumped to the win in the Platinum Performance $250,0000 Hunter Prix Final.

Kimberly and Urlala, the 13-year old Dutch Warmblood owned by Terri Maloomian, have been to the HITS Championship before but this year they put all the pieces into place.

“When the word ‘Final’ is attached to anything I get instant nerves,” Kimberly said. “The last two years, problem lead changes have kept us from the top. But, we worked it out this time.”

Maloomian, who trains with Mitch and Amanda Steege qualified for the Platinum Performance Final showing at HITS Ocala and HITS Saugerties. After finding success in Florida, she and Urlala traveled north to practice on the bank that makes the Outside Course at HITS-on-the-Hudson a nod to the traditional hunt. “Urlala never has trouble, but I needed to be confident,” she said.

The pair certainly displayed confidence during the first two rounds of competition, finishing second in round one and third in two. “I just wanted to get to the final and have fun,” said Maloomian, after returning first in the fourth and final round. “Even if we aren’t in the lead, I like going first in the order. Then everybody has to catch me,” she added.

Alyssa Filipe and Emily Smith of Platinum Performance are joined by Asia Manning and Lindsay Yandon of HITS to present top honors, including a Horseware Ireland cooler and $75,000 winner's check to Kimberly Maloomian and Urlala. ©ESI Photography
Alyssa Filipe and Emily Smith of Platinum Performance are joined by Asia Manning and Lindsay Yandon of HITS to present top honors, including a Horseware Ireland cooler and $75,000 winner's check to Kimberly Maloomian and Urlala. ©ESI Photography

Catch her they could not, however. With only a half point separating the top four scores after the third round, competition promised to be rich in the final. But a 171 easily topped the leader board and handed Maloomian the blue, along with $75,000 in prize money.

Haleigh Landrigan [Marstons Mills, Massachusetts] experienced her fair share of success this winter at HITS Ocala, winning four $1,500 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix qualifiers. She quickly became a top contender at her first-ever HITS Championship. Five points off the lead in the final round, she and Tegan Elizabeth Treacy’s Winston finished second.

“I rehabbed this horse after an injury,” said Landrigan. “To see him come full circle like this is amazing – I’m lucky to have been able to spend so much time getting to know him. I think it helped.”

Kendall Fately [Basking Ridge, New Jersey] and her own Magnetic finished third, while Sara McCloskey [Pound Ridge, New York] was fourth aboard her own Austin.

A first-year sponsorship for Platinum Performance, representative Emily Smith admits she immediately embraced the opportunity. “I grew up showing in the hunters and we focus a lot on the jumpers at Platinum Performance, so I didn’t think twice about sponsoring something I am personally passionate about,” she said. “I was lucky enough to watch all the qualifiers in Ocala, Culpeper and Saugerties, so to see the culmination was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

For complete results, click here.

About Platinum Performance
Platinum Performance provides more than 10 supplements essential to your horse’s health and conditioning in just one scoop. Platinum Performance® Equine addresses a horse's total body health from joint and hoof care to athletic performance and coat health, and is the 2014 sponsor of the $250,000 Hunter Prix Final and all qualifiers. For more information on Platinum Performance, visit platinumperformance.com.

Platinum Performance $250,000 Hunter Prix Final
Place    Horse    Owner  Rider  Prize $  Rd 3 Score   Rd 4 Score
1 Urlala  Terry S Maloomian  Kimberly Maloomian  $75,000  167  171
2 Winston  Tegan Elizabeth Treacy  Haleigh Landrigan  $45,000  167  166
3 Magnetic  Kendall Fately  Kendall Fately  $30,000  167.25 163
4 Austin   Sara McCloskey  Sara McCloskey  $20,000  167.5  158
5 Wallstreet Rumor  Jennifer Baron  Jennifer Baron  $12,500  167 -
6 Eclipse  Rindy Dominguez  Rindy Dominguez  $10,000  165.5 -
7 Blue Shamrock  Monica Hunt  Alexa Bayko  $7,500  163.75 -
8 Baricello  Mr & Mrs Ernest M Oare  Betty Oare  $6,000  158 -
9 Sebastian  Monty Kelly  Isabella Usenza  $5,000  158 -
10 Freedom's Storm  Kirsten Ostling  Kirsten Ostling  $4,500  146 -
11 Kavalier  Corinne Milbury   Corinne Milbury     $4,000     143.5 -
12 Contina  Jacquelyn Maggiore     Jacquelyn Maggiore  $3,500  141.5 -
13 Redford  Tracie Schoelen  Tracie Schoelen  $3,000  140 -
13 MTM Passport  Cammy Turgon  Therese Peck  $3,000  140 -
15 Blue Monday     Jessica Pletka     Jessica Pletka     $2,500     134.5 -
16 Cosa Nostra     Merle Beach  Merle Beach  $2,500  130 -
17 Contender  Sonja Wojcik  Jordynn Shaffer  $2,500  126 -
18 Sky's the Limit  Elsa Kania     Louisa Kania  $2,000  123 -
19 West Lake  Redfield Farm  Marlena Parker  $2,000  120 -
20 Bentley  Kathryn Haefner  Kathryn Haefner $2,000  94 -
21 Paramount  Elizabeth Lloyd  Amy Lloyd Thompson  $1,500  91.5      
22 Freeport  Rebecca Clawson  Rebecca Clawson  $1,500  90      
22 Samba Gracious    




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