Ocala, FL - Aaron Vale made his triumphant return to the winners’ circle on Thursday, as he and Paparazzi, owned by Thinkslikeahorse and Norman Peterson, won the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health at HITS Ocala. "He was awesome – we have improved a lot since Sunday," said Vale of Ocala, Florida, about his new horse that’s only been in the barn for 15 days. "There were some tricky lines but he answered them all confidently."
Vale was one of 20 to take the field on a challenging course set by Danny Foster of Canada which saw the first five riders of the class suffer dropped rails and time faults.
The first clear round of the class came from Callan Solem and Allison, owned by Quiet Winter Farm and BJ Maghan, as the New Jersey native competed in her first Grand Prix in two weeks after suffering a broken finger, which required surgery that put her out of action. "It feels a bit awkward," said Solem, of the cast on her hand that she’s been riding with. "I felt like I was lacking a little strength – but she [Allison] was perfect today."
After Solem went clear, the next three riders, Tracy Magness, David Jennings and Vale, followed her lead with consecutive clean rounds. Riding in their first Grand Prix of the season at HITS Ocala, Francois Lamontagne, of St. Eustache, Quebec, on his mount Anton, was next to go clear, followed by Solem on her second mount, Torlando Group’s VDL Torlando to make it six for the jump-off.
Starting the jump off with a clean round in 40.967 seconds, Solem and Allison set the pace and Great American Time to Beat, but would ultimately settle into second place as Vale would soon prove that their time was not enough to keep the lead. Solem has been riding Allison for 12 years and won the very first two $25,000 HITS Grand Prix classes, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, during the HITS Ocala Pre-Circuit. "She’s really a special horse," she said. "We just know each other so well."
Maryland native Tracy Magness on Tarco Van Ter Moude was next to show in the jump-off, looking to repeat their winning performance from last week’s $25,000 class, but while the pair went clean, their time of 41.232 was not enough to take the lead. They finished the day in third place and collected $3,250 for owners Mr. and Mrs. John Bartko.
Jennings, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, was next to show aboard Dr. Amy Jennings’ Aristide 7. The pair was quite fast, but dropped four rails and finished in sixth place. Vale jumped fourth in the jump-off with a clean time of 40.272 seconds for the win.
"Going into the jump-off Callan [Solem] and Tracy [Magness] had really fast rounds, so I had no reason to go slow in the jump-off," said Vale, as he and Paparazzi are still getting to know each other. "Having a horse clever enough to go that fast and answer all those questions is the real trick."
Eager to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix that will take place on September 12 in Saugerties, New York, Vale may have found his horse to do so. "That’s the plan," he said. "We’re moving in the right direction."
Lamontagne and Anton followed Vale in the jump-off and had eight faults in a time of 42.114 seconds to finish in fifth place.
Solem returned to the ring on VDL Torlando and posted a fast time of 39.739, which would have taken the lead away from Vale, but they dropped the very last rail and had to settle for fourth place.
Vale now has five of the eight Grand Prix classes needed to make the initial qualification for the Pfizer Million and thanks to yesterday’s win $9,000 in prize money on his leading horse, Paparazzi. Jennings and Magness stand fourth and fifth, respectively, in the current Pfizer Million Rider Rankings.
The Ocala Tournament continues this week with the $50,000 Ring Power Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health on Sunday, as Vale looks to keep his momentum alive on the road to the Pfizer Million.
Missed the Grand Prix action? That’s alright – you can watch every Grand Prix at HITS this season on Galopando TV at www.galopandotv.com, either live during the event for a small fee or after the event for no charge. At any time throughout the year, viewers can watch select competitions from HITS Ocala.
$2,500 Brook Ledge Open Welcome
Wednesday's $2,500 Brook Ledge Open Welcome was won by Scott Lenkart on Un Prince, owned by Martha MacMillan. Willie Tynan rode Emily Skoggard's Cartier Van Schuttershof to a second place finish, while Tracy Fenney and MTM Farm's MTM Centano finished third.
In order to qualify for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, a rider must compete in eight or more HITS Grand Prix classes. The top 40 riders, based on money won by horse/rider combination, will be eligible to ride for the Pfizer Million. For more detailed information on the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, please visit our website at HitsShows.com.
HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS will take the industry to new heights when it hosts the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties on September 12.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit www.HitsShows.com.
$25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Paparazzi Aaron Vale Thinkslikeahorse & Norman Peterson $7,500 0 0 40.272
2 Allison Callan Solem Quiet Winter Farm / BJ Maghan $5,500 0 0 40.967
3 Tarco Van Ter Moude Tracy Magness Mr.& Mrs. John Bartko $3,250 0 0 41.232
4 VDL Torlando Callan Solem Torlando Group $2,000 0 4 39.739
5 Anton Francois Lamontagne Francois Lamontagne $1,500 0 8 42.114
6 Aristide 7 David Jennings Dr. Amy Jennings $1,250 0 16 39.310
7 Troubador Penny Brennan The Bullneck Barn LLC $1,000 1
8 Just An Illusion Taylor McMurtry Taylor McMurtry $750 2
9 MTM Centano Tracy Fenney MTM Farm $750 5
10 KT UnderCover Michael Kirby Michael Kirby $500 6
11 Monkey Du Parc Dianna Rodolpho Diana Rodolpho $500 6
12 Contharo Jennifer A. Childs Jennifer A. Childs $500 8
Photo Credits: Aaron Vale and Paparazzi win their first Grand Prix of the season at HITS Ocala in Thursday's $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.