Culpeper, VA - HITS Grand Prix Veteran Aaron Vale and Paparazzi 10, owned by Thinkslikeahorse and Norman Peterson, won the $40,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Vale, of Morriston, Florida, was one of 22 horse-and-rider teams to compete over a course designed by International Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Sr. of Paehl, Germany.
Only three riders jumped clean in what turned out to be a very challenging first round which featured a double and a triple combination, as well as an open water obstacle.
"It was a tricky course," said Vale. "You don't come to Culpeper expecting to jump open water and Olaf [Petersen, Sr.] makes it challenging. You needed to do some real horseback riding on this course."
Starting the class was Gustavo Prato and his own Hotspur 23, who had four faults in the triple combination.
Jenny Childs and her own Contharo went next, securing the first clean round of the class. Two rounds later, Alexa Lowe and Canezaro, owned by Alexa Lowe and Windsor Show Stables, went clean to guarantee a jump-off.
The next 15 trips failed to go clean, and it seemed as though Childs and Lowe would be going head-to-head in the jump-off until Vale proved why he's one of the most dominant players in the sport, as he and Paparazzi 10 went clean to thunderous applause, making the jump-off a three way dance for the win.
With only two trips remaining in the first round, Megan Edrick and Cadence, owned by Procedures, Inc, the winners of the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, this past June in Saugerties, appeared to be on the brink of joining the jump-off by going cleanly over fences; however, unfortunately, they were three seconds over the time allowed, and they had to settle for the fourth-place ribbon.
First to show in the jump-off was Childs and Contharo. The pair was unable to repeat their clean ride from the first round and finished with eight faults in 47.940 seconds.
Lowe and Canezaro were next to go and took the lead with the first-double clear effort of the class, setting the Great American Time to Beat at 52.851 seconds.
The excitement began to grow as Vale and Paparazzi 10 were the only thing that stood in the way of Lowe's potential victory. "I was pretty sure I could get less than eight [faults] and I knew Alexa's [Lowe] round wasn't the fastest," explained Vale, who needed to find the right skillful combination of speed and carefulness in order to win. The team went clean in 48.477 seconds for the decisive win, and captured the Great American Time to Beat and the first place check for $12,000.
"I'm very competitive," said Vale. "There's this nervous tension when you get out there and go as fast as you can, your muscles tighten up and there's nothing to think about but to just press and keep going. I was very relieved when I got over that last fence!"
Vale and Paparazzi 10 have climbed mountains over the past several months, earning big victories in their last several outings. In fact, their win at Culpeper makes it three in a row for the pair, as they won the Grand Prix at both Upperville and Roanoke in June. This past winter, Vale acquired Paparazzi 10 while competing at HITS Ocala where they earned their first victory together scoring a win in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health during Week IV of the circuit.
"I think this is the best he's [Paparazzi 10] jumped all year," said Vale. "He's starting to believe in me and I'm starting to understand him. I think this was the first time this year where I felt like I really knew him."
With the victory, Vale and Paparazzi 10 have $24,000 in prize money and are now tied for 14th in the Pfizer Million Eligible Rider Rankings after moving up from 26th place. Also moving up in the Rankings was Edrick who went from the number nine spot to sixth after Sunday's finish.
Show jumping at HITS Culpeper continues this week with the Cavalier Classic, highlighted by the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Derby on Saturday, July 17 and the $40,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health on Sunday, July 18. Starting Wednesday, July 21, HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties returns for three more weeks of non-stop competition, featuring six more opportunities to qualify for the Pfizer Million.
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.
$40,000 Strongid® C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
PLACING HORSE RIDER OWNER PRIZE MONEY RD 1 FAULTS JO FAULTS JO TIME
1 Paparazzi 10 Aaron Vale Thinkslikeahorse and Norman Peterson $12,000 0 0 48.477
2 Canezaro Alexa Lowe Alexa Lowe and Windsor Show Stables $8,800 0 0 52.851
3 Contharo Jenny Childs Jenny Childs $5,200 0 8 47.940
4 Cadence Megan Edrick Procedures, Inc. $3,200 3
5 Eli Derek Petersen Derek Petersen $2,400 4
6 Hotspur 23 Gustavo Prato Gustavo Prato $2,000 4
7 MTM Centano Tracy Fenney MTM Farm $1,600 4
8 MTM Timon Tracy Fenney MTM Farm $1,200 4
9 Blue Danube Helen Goddard Goddard/Harrison $1,200 5
10 Chambacunero Manuel Torres TG Show Stables $800 5
11 Big Air Harold Chopping Stars and Bars Farm $800 6
12 Gerona 92 Mary Lisa Leffler Rolling Acres $800 8
Photos: Aaron Vale and Paparazzi win the $40,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Culpeper. © ESI Photography.
Vale's sister, Kristen Vale of HITS, alongside wife Mallory Vale and student Claudia Billups present the award for the $40,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health. © ESI Photography.