Traverse City, MI - While Aaron Vale may be visiting Horse Shows by the Bay for the first time, it didn't take long for him to make his presence known. The professional rider based in Ocala, FL, jumped to top honors today in the featured $10,000 Positive Step Farm Open Jumper Welcome Prix aboard Spirit Of Alena and also picked up third place aboard H&M Cisco and fifth with Zenith Uhs.
Only Canadian Olympic veteran Yann Candele managed to break Vale's firm grip on the top-three placings when he guided Torrey Pines Stables' Brooklyn Blues to second place.
Vale's winning mount, Campos & Miranda Investments' Spirit of Alena, an 8-year-old German Sport Horse stallion (Paladijn-Alena), is on a roll. The flashy chestnut traveled to Traverse City after a string of second-placed grand prix finishes in Virginia and Georgia. "That's a young horse. He's only 8 years old, but he's been hot lately," said Vale smiling.
With three mounts on the roster today, Vale chose to remain in the ring to jump off instead of taking the option of waiting until the end of the class. Spirit Of Alena, sixth in the order, was his first ride in the field of 34 entries. "I went pretty early in the order with him, but I saw Ali Wolff go, and she was quick in the jump-off," said Vale. "I saw a couple of places where I could slip inside of her track, and that's what I did. And the time held up. The horse that was third [H&M Cisco] is smaller and a quicker type of horse, so when I finished I thought he probably had gotten ahead of the other horse, but when they announced it, he wasn't ahead."
As Vale waited for the class to conclude and the awards ceremony, he saw his lead almost disappear. "Yann's a super-fast rider," he said. "And I watched his round, and it was blazing quick. I was quite surprised the time held. I knew it was close, and you know I was pretty impressed my horse was faster than that!"
Vale also praised the 1.40-1.45m course designed by Chris Brandt as well as the attractive, and well-built jumps. "It wasn't super technical, and I think the footing is so good that the horses were really comfortable," he said. "There were a lot of clear rounds, but I think the conditions were good so it lends itself to that. It makes you think we'll probably have a fairly decent-sized grand prix on Sunday as well as the horses jumped today."
Vale has a string of horses from which to choose from for Sunday's $30,000 Danny & Ron's Rescue Grand Prix of Traverse City, sponsored by Missy and Doug Smith, so he hopes for a repeat performance. "I've got a couple others that didn't go today that will go on Sunday, so I've got quite a few rides. And, hopefully, the one that won today has some tread left on his tires for Sunday."
So far, Vale has found Traverse City to his liking for blue ribbons and more. "It's very pretty, and I enjoy the weather," he said. "It's not 100 degrees, so that's quite nice. I love the cool weather. We actually had hot chocolate yesterday morning. Having hot chocolate in July, that kind of says it all!
Emily Karp was also a force in the jumper ring today. The 15-year-old from Bloomfield Hills, MI, cruised to the win in the Low Children's Jumper Classic, sponsored by Courtyard Marriott of Traverse City. Her mount, When In Rome, is a multi-talented, 10-year-old Morgan gelding who was rescued by a humane organization before Karp purchased him. Not only is he a fantastic jumper, but he also wins in the Large Pony Hunter section and in Western speed events. "I bought him as a hunter, and I've been doing it so long I just thought we'd try something else. He seems to like the jumpers," she said with a smile.
Today, Karp and When In Rome found the winning recipe in their debut class at the 1.05m level. "He's been doing the 2'9" classes just since the beginning of the year," said trainer Linda Hake of Pine Ridge. "Emily's goal was to make sure she was clean." Karp achieved that goal and then some. The pair stopped the clock more than 3 seconds faster than second-placed The General and Lily De la Fuenta. "We've been taking a lot of rails lately, so I just wanted to go in and jump clear," said Karp. "During the jump-off, we just hit another gear and it was so fun."
Brett Burlington, 14, of Miami, FL, also had a winning day at Horse Shows by the Bay. She rode Sweet Oak Farm's Quigley to the blue ribbon in the T.H.I.S. National Children's Medal class under the watchful eye of trainer Allison Sweetnam. Burlington was called back on top for the testing phase and kept her spot with a solid performance that included an excellent trot fence and a brisk hand-gallop to the final oxer.
"The test was fun," she said. "To the hand-gallop jump I did an inside turn when I really probably should have gone around a jump, but otherwise it was good. I've done a lot of different equitation, including the 'big eq.' classes and the Taylor Harris. I hope to qualify for the finals this year."
Burlington also shows Quigley in the Small Junior Hunters and placed third in an over fences class today. "He's really cool because he can do the hunters and the equitation, and he's really fun to ride," she noted.
Other featured winners today included:
5-year-old Young Jumper Championships Qualifier, sponsored by Sweet Oak Farm - Vigilante, owned by Patrice Schreiber and ridden by Robin Walker
6-year-old Young Jumper Championships Qualifier, sponsored by Sweet Oak Farm - Calvigo, owned by Cara Cheska and ridden by Hayley Barnhill
7/8-year-old Young Jumper Championship Qualifier, sponsored by The Jaeckle Centre - Bonita, owned by Reid Patton and ridden by Cara Cheska
Low Adult Jumper Classic, sponsored by Michigan Equine Surgical Associates - Waterford, owned and ridden by Gay Sykes
WIHS Overall, sponsored by Ogilvy Equestrian - Sophie Simpson
Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search, sponsored by Fox Meadow Farm - Bethany Bolen
Action continues tomorrow in all five rings, with the Grand Prix Ring streaming live thanks to ShowNet LLC and this week's free streaming partner, HRTV. They're bringing the action right to your screen every day, beginning at 8 a.m. Go to www.horseshowsbythebay.com and click on "Watch It Live."
Horse Shows by the Bay Series I
Featured events for July 6-7:
$10,000 Great Lakes Golf Cars SJHOF High Jr/AO Jumper Prix - Saturday, July 6
$5,000 Captivate Farm $5,000 NAL Low JR/AO Jumper Classic - Saturday, July 6
$2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Walgreens - Sunday, July 7
$2,500 The Harvey Family NAL/WIHS Children's Jumper Classic - Sunday, July 7
$2,500 Fleur des Lis Farms NAL/WIHS Adult Jumper Classic - Sunday, July 7
$2,500 Prairie Star Farm Modified Children's/Jumper Classic - Sunday, July 7
$30,000 Danny & Ron's Rescue Grand Prix of Traverse City, sponsored by Missy & Doug Smith - Sunday, July 7.
Special Exhibitor functions this week include the Coldwell Banker Schmidt Wine & Cheese Social on Thursday, two ice cream socials sponsored by the Harvey Family & the Gochman Family, a Sunday brunch hosted by Horse Shows by the Bay, and the Morgan Stanley VIP/Sponsor Luncheon on Sunday.
Sponsors are also invited to a special fundraiser and VIP/Sponsor Social for Danny & Ron's Rescue held this Sunday at Red Ginger from 7-10 p.m.
Spectators are encouraged to attend Saturday's Team Elmer's Kid's Day and 4H Fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All kids under 18 are admitted for free. The remainder of the week the general admission fee is $10/person. Competition starts each morning at 8 a.m. and ends by 5 p.m.
For full show results, please visit www.horseshowing.com.