OCALA, Fla.--Aaron Vale rode Cristo Beach to win the $100,000 Grand Prix on Feb. 4 during week V of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series for the horse’s very first Saturday night grand prix win at World Equestrian Center – Ocala.
Vale had previously won a $100,000 Grand Prix on I Adermie R 4 at WEC in January.
It was standing room only for the competition over a course set by Peter Grant of Canada in which 14 qualified for the jump-off.
Only five were clean in the jump-off.
“The jump-off was a nice technical track," said Vale. "The tricky part was the two right turns. You had to turn right and land right, then after the big oxer in the middle you had to turn right and leave right again. When you come right and leave left, it’s a bit easier for the horses to jump clear. Then the last combination was pretty tight for most horses, so the rails were coming down a lot there.”
IRISH Olympian Cian O’Connor on Eve D’ouilly was the first clean, finishing in 44.567 seconds to set the pace for the remainder of the class.
Vale on I Adermie R 4 then was clean in 43.686 seconds to go into the lead.
Santiago Lambre of Brazil on Pampero then took over the lead, clean in the fast time of 42.607 seconds .
Richard Spooner on Quirado RC was clean, but fell short with a time of 45.865 seconds.
Vale had one more chance to try and secure the victory on his final mount Cristo Beech, and he took advantage of going last, finishing in 42.110 for the win.
Lamre was second, with Vale on 1 Adermie R 4 third, O'Connor fourth and Spooner fifth.
“He is a little bit quirky," said Vale of 1Adermie R 4. I" didn’t know if I could get the eight done. I turned the corner and saw a fast spot to the fence one – I wasn’t even sure if I could get to that spot. I landed and wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing, but I just kept kicking with the hopes he would take off and he did.”
“After I got the eight, I turned as fast as I could to the liver pool," he said. "He usually pushes back a little bit and tips the back rail to big oxers like the one in the middle, so I tried to stay wide enough where I could keep running as fast as I could to get his eye on it long enough where I could keep going after. I turned right back to the yellow, not super tight, but you needed a little momentum away from that off of the 270-degree turn. Then I ran over to the in-and-out and almost chipped in, because for some reason that’s how he jumps it best. Then I did eight to the last like everyone else.”
“He has been very consistent," said Vale. "He’s been jumping a lot of clear rounds, so he’s been getting some more chances in the jump-off.”
“He is a quirky horse," he said. "He is scared of other horses in the warmup area, so you have to be cautious, because if he gets jarred by one, he stiffens up his body and is a totally different horse. Even though he’s quirky, I really enjoy his personality. He should have more confidence in himself than he does. He reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live skit, Daily Affirmations. ‘Doggone it, people like me.’ He doesn’t think horses like him. He’s a shy, neat little animal, and I think that’s one of the things I love best about him.”
An additional $5,000 was awarded to the fastest four-faulter of the $100,000 Grand Prix, won by Rodrigo Pessoa on Quality FZ with a time of 77.651 seconds with one down.