Ocala, Florida – Aaron Vale won the $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties, LLC Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9, during the Ocala International held at Sharn Wordley Equestrian in Ocala, FL.
Just as Canada’s Francois Lamontagne had done the week before during the Ocala Jumping Classic, Vale won the $10,000 Blue Gate Farm Open Welcome on Thursday, April 7, as well as Saturday’s $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties, LLC Grand Prix during the Ocala International.
Having guided Highlander to victory over 19-year-old Sarah Johnstone and Leonidas in the $10,000 Blue Gate Farm Open Welcome, Vale returned with three mounts for the $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties, LLC Grand Prix. All three horses jumped clear, with Highlander and Paparazzi advancing to the seven-horse jump-off while Smartie clocked in at 74.04 seconds, picking up one time fault for exceeding the 74-second time allowed over the track set by course designer Catsy Cruz of Mexico.
“It is not a real big ring; it has an indoor flavor to it, the way that the courses ride,” noted Vale of the first round of competition. “It was a little tight, and the time allowed was 74 seconds and it was a hair tight at that. There were a lot of jumps to jump in 74 seconds, so it kept you focused. There was no time to wander off mentally.”
As the pathfinders, Vale and Highlander incurred 12 faults over the shortened jump-off course to eventually finish seventh. When Vale returned to the ring with Paparazzi, the benefit of prior experience resulted in a clear round in a time of 38.30 seconds.
“I got all the way to the last and he hit it behind,” said Vale of his ride to the final fence with Paparazzi. “I thought, “Oh no, that’s coming down.” I had the mental heartbreak of thinking I had the last rail, but then I never heard the pole hit the sand and I looked back and it was still there. I don’t know how, but somehow he slid over it. It was almost like he pushed it into the cups instead of out of them. I couldn’t believe that it stood up. I had to watch a couple more people go, but it was nice to have a little bit of good luck.”
Laura Linback and Uppsala and Juan Pablo Gnecco riding Ukoon followed Vale in the jump-off order and while both riders posted clear efforts, neither was able to catch Vale’s time. The final challenger, Roberto Teran riding Uvalier, had the time with 37.48 seconds, but a rail at the first part of the double combination left the Colombian rider in fifth.
For his victory with Paparazzi, Vale earned $7,500 in prize money.
“He is an experienced, seasoned horse, and pretty quick in the jump-off,” said Vale, who co-owns the 14-year-old Westphalian gelding with Norman Peterson. “I am developing some young horses now, so it is kind of nice to have one that knows the ropes when they get into the jump-off.”
Vale has been riding Paparazzi since January of 2010, winning the Upperville Grand Prix and placing second in the President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse Show. Their victory in the $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties, LLC Grand Prix marks the pair’s first win of 2011.
“They do a wonderful job, they put a wonderful set of fences in the ring, they always bring in good course designers, and it’s got great, great footing,” said Vale of competing at the Ocala International. “It’s another experience for the horses, different from HITS Ocala or Wellington. It is nice mileage for the younger horses, and it’s good for them to do something different. It keeps it fresh and interesting. And there is good prize money in a lot of classes. Overall, the show offers a lot.”
The $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties, LLC Grand Prix was the final event of the Ocala Jumping Classic, held March 31 to April 3, and the Ocala International, held April 6 to 9, at Sharn Wordley Equestrian, home of New Zealand Olympian Sharn Wordley.
“Hayes Co. and Sharn Wordley Equestrian would like to thank all of our sponsors and exhibitors for making our sixth annual Ocala Jumping Classic a huge success,” said Ainsley Hayes of Hayes Co., who co-produces the Ocala Jumping Classic and Ocala International with Sharn Wordley Equestrian. “We had great entries and a lot of positive feedback, and are already planning an even better event for next year.”
$25,000 Ocala Horse Properties LLC Grand Prix - Ocala International – Final Results
1. Aaron Vale Paparazzi 0:0 38.30
2. Laura Linback Uppsala 0:0 40.26
3. Jordan Coyne Lazaro 0:0 42.00
4. Juan Pablo Gnecco Ukoon 0:0 43.36
5. Roberto Teran Uvalier 0:4 37.48
6. Manuel Torres Chambacunero 0:4 39.86
7. Aaron Vale Highlander 0:12 38.85
8. Aaron Vale Smartie 1
9. Kristen Vander Veen Bull Run’s La Bamba 1
10. Francois Lamontagne Anton 4
Photo Credit: Aaron Vale and Paparazzi won the $25,000 Ocala Horse Properties LLC Grand Prix on April 9 at the 2011 Ocala International. Shawn and Ainsley Hayes make the presentation to Vale on behalf of Chris and Rob Desino of Ocala Horse Properties, LLC. Photo credit – ESI Photography