Ocala, Fla. – Feb. 18, 2017 – Competition resumed at HITS Post Time Farm on Saturday with the Ocala Horse Properties Grand Prix Stadium highlighting the $41,200 HITS Jumper Classic CSI4*. The USA’s Aaron Vale bested an international field of 40 to clinch the first place prize aboard Quality on Top, owned by North Face Farm and Erin Haas of Chelsea, Michigan. Saturday’s victory also marked the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding’s first ever FEI win.
“This is a younger horse and this is actually his first FEI horse show,” said Vale. “He just started at the grand prix level last summer so, for him, it was a difficult course but he jumped it really well today. He’s naturally a very quick horse. He just tried his heart out and I’m happy to see him rise to the occasion at a new level. There were 13 in the jump-off so you just have to take your best chance when there are a lot of fast riders behind you. He went as fast as his little legs could go over the last three fences and we got the job done. I’m thrilled to have a win here!”
Marina Azevedo designed a technical first round course, yet a tight time-allowed proved to be one of the most difficult aspects, preventing five horse and rider combinations who jumped clear from advancing to the jump-off.
“Marina does a brilliant job,” said Vale. “She’s a top-class course designer and I thought it was great, how could I complain? It was difficult enough, but didn’t kill anyone. The time-allowed kept you honest. You had to be smart to make the time-allowed. It was a good class with just enough in the jump-off to be a little exciting and see some galloping.”
At the conclusion of round one, 13 moved on to challenge the short course with seven producing double-clear efforts.
McLain Ward (USA) kicked off competition in the jump-off, producing the first double-clear round aboard Quinta, owned by Ward and François Mathy, in 42.48 seconds. Christine Tribble McCrea (USA) and Dynamo, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stable, followed one round later with another double-clear in 44.67 seconds. Their faultless but conservative efforts would earn Ward sixth place and McCrea seventh in the final standings.
Following McCrea was Pablo Barrios of Venezuela with Zara Leandra, owned by ZL Group Inc. They laid down a fast time of 41.17 seconds to move into the lead. However, Vale entered the ring one round later and caught Barrios’ time by three full seconds in 38.43 seconds, which would prove to be unbeatable for the remainder of the class, while Barrios would settle for third place honors.
“[Quality on Top] is still a little green in the combinations so I took one more stride in the jump-off to the combination just to try and not rush him because he gets worried and doesn’t understand the combinations so well yet,” said Vale. “He got away with a little bit of a lucky rub there at 12A in the jump-off. I actually thought I had it down. The fact that I thought I had it down, I kind of relaxed for a second, and then I glanced out of the corner of my eye and was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s still up!’ Then I got over the vertical and I just asked him to run as fast as he could for the last three jumps. I think his natural speed in the gallop is what made the difference. I was only a little slow to the combination and a little slow back to the vertical because I was looking to see if it had fallen or not.”
Ali Wolff (USA) and Emanuel Andrade (VEN) would also try their best to outpace Vale, but to no avail. Andrade stopped the timers in 41.33 seconds with his own U for fourth place, while Wolff crossed the finish line in 41.90 seconds with her own and John Wolff’s Quirie for fifth place.
One of the final three combinations in the jump-off was Mattias Tromp (USA) and Swede Ventures LLC’s Avon who took every chance to beat Vale, but was just two seconds too slow in 40.33 seconds. However, his performance was fast enough to earn second place and move ahead of Barrios for the runner-up prize.
Vale is only helping to produce and gain mileage on Quality on Top for now, but is thrilled to have secured the gelding’s first FEI win on Saturday at HITS Ocala.
“Erin Haas, his owner, may ride him in the amateur jumpers at some point or maybe even at the grand prix level,” said Vale. “She’s coming back from an injury, and he was still lacking mileage when she bought him, so in the meantime I’m continuing to produce him and put miles into him since he really hasn’t shown that much for his age.”
In addition to Saturday’s win, Vale will also be looking to capture the week’s grand prix title in the $100,000 City of Ocala Grand Prix CSI4* on Sunday with Finou 4.
Read coverage from Friday’s $100,000 FEI Nations Cup™ CSIO4* at HITS Ocala here!
$41,200 HITS Jumper Classic CSI4*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Quality on Top / Aaron Vale / USA / 0 | 77.32 / 0 | 38.43
2. Avon / Mattias Tromp / USA / 0 | 77.06 / 0 | 40.33
3. Zara Leandra / Pablo Barrios / VEN / 0 | 74.15 / 0 | 41.17
4. U / Emanuel Andrade / VEN / 0 | 76.96 / 0 | 41.33
5. Quirie / Ali Wolff / USA / 0 | 76.82 / 0 | 41.90
6. Quinta / McLain Ward / USA / 0 | 78.39 / 0 | 42.48
7. Dynamo / Christine Tribble McCrea / USA / 0 | 78.89 / 0 | 44.67
8. Double O Seven / Kevin Babington / IRL / 0 | 75.70 / 4 | 41.88
9. HH Whisky Royale / Quentin Judge / USA / 0 | 76.68 / 4 | 43.06
10. CHS Inception / Andrew Bourns / IRL / 0 | 75.11 / 4 | 43.49
11. Bariano / Eugenio Garza Perez / MEX / 0 | 76.85 / 8 | 38.89
12. ASD Farfala / Pablo Barrios / VEN / 0 | 75.89 / 8 | 39.12