Ocala, FL- The Sunday Grand Prix at HITS Ocala get better and better. The competition between Lisa Goldman of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, and hometown hero Aaron Vale of Williston, Florida, is heating up and the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix had the crowd screaming for their favorite pick to win. There was no shortage of excitement as Andrew Kocher of Lake St. Louis, Missouri, had the crowd on their feet to the final fence.
In a thrilling jump-off, Vale and Quidam’s Good Luck, owned by Troy Glaus, wowed the crowd as they squeaked by Goldman, riding Mary Goldman’s Centurion B, by two-tenths of a second for the win. Vale also finished third on Finou 4, a horse he co-owns with Don Stewart. Andrew Kocher on his own Le Conte placed fourth and Goldman was back again in the top five with her own Rocs to Riches for fifth-place.
Course designer Martin Otto, of Muenster, Germany, set a demanding track of sixteen efforts set at 1.55 meters for the 35 starters. Time was a factor, and even with an adjusted time allowed of 81 seconds, 10 riders had time faults in the first round. Eight had clear rounds, including all three of Vale’s rides, and both of Goldman’s mounts..
First to test the shortened course was Catuso, owned by Blue Gate Farm, LLC, and ridden by Denise Wilson of Dousman, Wisconsin. Catuso jumped in beautiful form and took no risks, opting for a fault-free, 48.792. Next up was Vale riding Finou 4. Vale navigated the big-strided Hanoverian through a tight turn from the first to the second fence, and an inside turn to the Brook Ledge fence, to cut eight full seconds off Wilson’s time, setting the Great American Time to Beat of 40.189 seconds.
Amanda Flint, of Long Valley, New Jersey and VDL Wittinger were up next but had a rail at the combination after making a very tight turn. They finished with four faults in a time of 42.645 seconds, ultimately earning them seventh-place. Goldman moved up in the order while Vale changed horses and threw down the gauntlet on the 14-year-old Centurion B, owned by her mother and trainer Mary Goldman. They left out a stride in the long gallop across the ring to the last fence, finishing in an astonishing 38.993 seconds for the lead.
Vale returned on his second horse, Spirit of Alena, owned by his Thinkslikeahorse, but took back after a rail, finishing in 44.778 for eighth. Goldman followed on her youngster, Rocs to Riches, to finish clean in 41.780 seconds for fifth place. Two remained to go, with Goldman and Centurion B still hanging on to the lead in 38.993 seconds.
Vale returned with his third ride in the jump-off, Quidam’s Good Luck. “This is a quick footed horse and I went in with the idea that I had nothing to lose. I’ve ridden some fast classes but that was a lot of speed,” Vale said, referring to Goldman’s all-out time. “I just kept kicking and went like I was getting chased.” His turn from the first to the second fence in six strides might have been the difference and he finished in 38.704 to take the lead. “In hindsight, if I had gotten the six strides from 1 to 2 on my first horse [Finou 4], he would have been faster. It felt like a smooth pretty ride and really my most fun of the day,” Vale said.
Andrew Kocher and Le Conte stepped in as the final horse to contest the jump-off. In what can only be described as a flat out gallop he made a great turn from 1 to 2 and left out as many as 3 strides to fence 3, but missed the inside turn to the Brook Ledge fence. Trying to make up the time, he continued at his breakneck pace to the last fence, to finish clear in 40.662 for third-place.
In a roundup of the class, Vale said the speed displayed by the top three as they tried to catch each other was outrageous. “My third horse – that was just crazy! But it worked. It was a great class for the crowd to watch.”
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.