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.”
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.”
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 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.
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