Of the four horses Aaron Vale entered in Sunday's $40,000 Grand Prix presented by Zoetis at HITS Culpeper, his confidence was vested in an unlikely candidate. Eight-year old Quidam's Good Luck, owned by Troy Glaus, was the youngest of Vale's rides, but stood as a prime example that pure talent was enough for a win.
With speed, eagerness and tight knees, Quidam's Good Luck makes it look easy. Vale has been his pilot for two years and the pair began moving up the ranks this winter at HITS Ocala, jumping consistently well in the 1.40m Brook Ledge and 1.45m Prix. Vale believes he's barely scratched the surface of the horse's potential.
"This is his first year doing the grand prix and got his first win earlier this season. Our plan is to keep moving him forward into bigger classes as he gains experience," said Vale (Williston, Florida) of the strapping bay Holsteiner gelding. "He doesn't have the mileage some of the other horses have, but makes up for it with natural quickness."
That inherent speed was put to the test in the HITS Grand Prix with 10 horses advancing to Ken Krome's [Westminster, Maryland] jump-off. Tall verticals and challenging square oxers tested a field of 27 in the first round, weeding out the top contenders for the short course. "I only watched a couple ride before me, but knew if it came down to leaving out strides we were going to have a shot," said Vale.
He was proved correct by the bending approach to a double combination in the jump-off. "I watched most ride ten strides from a single fence to the combination and I thought we could do eight," added Vale. "We pulled it off and it's what made the difference."
Crossing the timers in 39.48 seconds, Vale took the win with nearly three seconds to spare. Second-place was awarded to Filip De Wandel (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania) and his own Gentley with a jump-off time of 42.25 seconds.
With only fractions of a second deciding second through fourth, Daniel Damen (Ocala, Florida) took third aboard Seth Vallhonrat's Bahrain 8 in 43.22 seconds, while local girl Brooke Kemper (Culpeper, Virginia) piloted her own Classified to fourth in 43.56 seconds. Ian Silitch (Ocala, Florida) rounded out the top five double-clear efforts in the irons of Cordovo for Gaston Family Investments in 43.90 seconds.
Vale was back on the road first thing Monday morning with plenty of momentum driving him toward the HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York. "I've got some promising young horses, but I'm deciding between Honeylands Douglason [owned by Doug's Crew] and Spirit of Alena [owned by The Spirit Group] for the [Zoetis $1] Million Grand Prix," he said.
Qualified Zoetis Million contenders from all corners of the U.S. and beyond, including Vale, will soon converge at HITS-on-the-Hudson for the Richest Week in Show Jumping September 3-7. Two more chances remain during Week VII as riders vie for a spot in the coveted high-stakes event. To follow Zoetis Million qualifying, click here.
Source: Press release from HITS, Inc.
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