Neither wind nor rain could prevent Aaron Vale of the United States from galloping to a 1st place finish in the $41,200 FEI HITS Jumper Classic at the HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida on Saturday, February 18, 2017.
Vale set the bar a little too high for the competitors that followed in the 13-horse jumpoff, with a jumpoff time of 42.48 seconds aboard Quality on Top, the fairly inexperienced 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Quality x Gondola).
“This is a younger horse and this is actually his first FEI show,” said Vale. “Last year he started in the grand prix, so for him it was a difficult course, but he jumped it really well. He’s naturally very quick but he doesn’t understand how to do the combination so well, so I took one more stride in the jump-off to try and not rush him. He tried his heart out and I’m just happy to see him rise to the occasion at a new level.”
The 16-obstacle course, set by Marina Azevedo, featured a sizable triple combination, though the obstacles were more lenient on the riders in comparison to the adjusted time allowed of 79 seconds, which proved to be the most daunting challenge of the class. Cian O’Connor of Ireland, who on Friday starred as Team Ireland’s victorious FEI Nations Cup anchor rider, was one of the 14 riders who succumbed to the time restraint, this time aboard Concho.
“Marina does a brilliant job, she’s a top-class course designer and I thought it was great,” said Vale. “The time allowed kept you honest, and you had to be smart to make it, so this was a good class. Just enough in the jump-off to be a little bit exciting and watch some galloping.”
In total, 40 competitors braved the weather for Saturday’s class in the hopes of having a podium finish in the second of three FEI rated classes presented this week at CSIO4* HITS Ocala.
McLain Ward and Quinta of the USA produced the first clear in both rounds, and took an early lead over the field with a time of 42.48 seconds in the jump off. But he, along with several others who went clear, were unable to keep their podium placings for long, as riders continued to find a quicker path over the track. Ward would finish in an enventual 6th place.
Mattias Tromp and Avon, a 13 year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion (Quidam de Revel x Cortez 679), came in behind Vale for 2nd place with a time of 40.33 seconds. Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra came in third with 41.17 seconds on the clock.
Vale will compete in Sunday’s FEI $100,000 City of Ocala CSIO4* Grand Prix with Finou 4, the 11 year old Hannoverian gelding (For Pleasure x Conchita) that he piloted to a first place win in the 2016 October CSI4* Puissance class in Washington, DC.
For full results, visit this link.