Green Cove Springs, FL - The $25,000 Jacksonville A-Z Grand Prix sponsored by North Florida Hunter Jumper Association closed out Week IV of competition with one of the most successful riders in show jumping, Aaron Vale, adding another win to his illustrious career.
After a week of observation, course designer Allen Rheinheimer put all he learned about today’s starting field into a lengthy and technical 13 obstacle-16 effort test with a time allowance of 96 tight seconds. “It was a little bit on the snug side for sure.” chuckled Vale about the tick tock of the clock, A vast majority of the faults in round one occurred from battling the clock, with 3 horses retiring and 6 having time issues. It wasn’t until the 6th in the field of 21, Birthday Girl Claire Lee, that the audience saw a clear round. Lee and partner High Roller posted a clean run of 91.786, which held as the only perfect ride until 3 rounds later when Vale and Platinum assured a jump off with a clean 94.083 seconds. Only one other horse and rider combo, Tony Font and Gardenio (owned by YZ Partners LLC) with a clean 93.776, would accompany them to the final round. Vale said, “This was surprising. When I walked the course I thought, wow-we had 9 clear last week, we’re going to have more clear this week. We only got 3 so sometimes you just can’t tell. Allen did a great job.”
“You had quite a few turns that were different from what the horses are used to seeing, so I don’t know if that kind of had the riders and horses off a little. And the time was a factor.” Vale said of the two 70 degree angled turns. Vale, who’s based in Ocala, FL, piloted two rides in the class held in the covered Grand Prix arena of the Clay County Agricultural Center. The first being the 14 year-old Hanoverian gelding Platinum owned by ABC 4 Horses and new mount Gregor, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, who finished round one with 4 faults in a time of 94.572. “Claudia Billups from Mississippi is one of the co-owners of Platinum. She’s 13 and normally shows him in the high junior jumpers and had some really good placings this past summer, but she’s stuck at school right now so I’m fortunate to inherit the ride here.” he then added with a deep laugh, “I’m keeping him fit-actually it looks like I’m having fun with him!”
It was a three horse race going into the abbreviated 49 second final round, with Claire Lee taking on the 9 obstacle test and chalking up another clean ride in 48.011. “Claire went around there quite quickly, but she did go around to the last line - I’ve got a seasoned horse with a lot of jump so I knew I’d go inside. Basically I was just trying to match her stride for stride and knew that the inside turn would make a difference.” This veteran was dead on with his strategy and bested High Roller as Platinum finished fault free in a fast 44.763. Only Tony Font and Gardenio stood between Vale and the number one spot, but despite a valiant effort the pair fell short of beating the time as they finished clear in 48.858. “It really was a good class! And I hope to be back next week to try again.” Vale concluded.
Official results for the A to Z $25,000 Grand Prix were, in second place, making for a great birthday present, was owner-rider Claire Lee and High Roller finishing clear in 48.011; third went to Tony Font aboard Gardenio for owner YZ Partners LLC also clear in a time of 48.858; fourth spot was junior owner-rider Samantha Schaefer with Sugar Ray with 1 time faults in 97.565, and the fifth position went to Wilhelm Genn on Chantal for owner Laura Ryan-Barnaclo with 4 faults in 87.542.
The Jacksonville Winter Series continues through February 7th with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM except for special events on Saturday evenings at 7PM. Admission to the shows is free – parking at special weekend events is a $5 donation, which goes to support local charities.
For more information or results on the 2010 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 904-284-1579.
Photo: Aaron Vale & Platinum ©Flashpoint Photography