OCALA, FL (March 17, 2008)—HITS Thermal's office manager, Donna Vale, sat in her office over 2,300 miles away from the Grand Prix ring at HITS Ocala along with Otis Brown, hunter judge at the DC Championship week at HITS Thermal. Both were watching the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group live on-line from HITS Ocala.
Together they watched rail after rail fall as course designer Florencio Hernandez's route tripped up 44 of the 46 starters in the first round. The only two exhibitors to advance to the jump-off were Aaron Vale, Donna's son, and Patty Stovel, who rode for Otis Brown for more than a decade.
"We saw bigger fences in the first round than we had all circuit," said Aaron Vale, who won the $100,000 class two years in a row back in 2005 and 2006. "It was a long course with some of the harder fences at the end. It culminated with a triple combination in the last line and the last fence was the delicate wavy plank. By that point, I think the horses were really hoping that they were done for the day!"
Stovel and Shandor 41 were first to go in the jump-off and had three rails down, leaving all the prize money on the table for Vale to take home. Vale and Blue Danube entered the ring next. They had a hard rub on the first jump but it stayed up, allowing the duo to cruise through the rest of the course, going clear in 41.248 to win $30,000 in prize money for Tatra Farm.
"After Patty dropped three rails I knew I still had work to do in the jump-off," said Vale. "I was sitting on a very inexperienced horse who's just eight years old and showing in only his third Grand Prix, but I did know that I had a nice cushion. I could take my time and take two poles down and win, or I could drop three poles and beat her on time because Patty was on a very experienced horse that usually is not very fast in the jump-off."
Back in Thermal, Donna Vale was sent a celebratory bottle of champagne from HITS Thermal's Oasis Club Chef Ric Orlando as corks were popped from coast to coast celebrating Aaron Vale's triumph. "I'm glad I could put a smile on my mother's face from so far away," said Vale. "She had a rough week with the passing of her father."
Vale dedicated the victory to his grandfather, Douglas 'Granddaddy' Kinser, who at 93 passed away last week at the family's home in Saugerties, New York. Vale, along with his mother and his sister Kristen, traveled to New York on Wednesday to pay their respects. With family and friends supporting them, the Vales honored and celebrated the long and amazing life of their beloved "Granddaddy". By Friday, Vale was making his way back to Ocala with his eye on Sunday's Grand Finale.
Kristen Vale runs the office at HITS Ocala and got to watch her brother score the win as well. "Tom Struzzieri (HITS President and CEO) called me and said I had exactly six minutes to get to the ring and watch my brother jump," said Kristen Vale. "I ran as fast as I could to the ring to watch him go and I called my mom in Thermal to tell her and she was already watching. We got to watch it together and it was really special for us."
The Vales were not the only ones watching, as HITS Post Time Farm was jammed with an enthusiastic crowd. "The ring was lined with spectators on all four sides," said Aaron Vale. "It was a great atmosphere for show jumping."
"It was a great circuit," added Aaron Vale. "I couldn't be happier with the progression of my horses."
"It's been a fantastic weekend," said Tom Struzzieri. "This year was our largest series of shows here in Ocala, and to end the circuit on a high note with the Hunter Derby on Saturday, followed by this outstanding Grand Prix competition today with beautiful weather in front of such a large, enthusiastic crowd was truly special. The jumping was exceptional because the ground was so good. The jumps were magnificent and the ring was decorated to the nines, it was a perfect end to the season!"
Sunday at HITS Ocala also featured the Antares Sellier France Circuit Awards and Ocala Style Magazine presented the Ocala Style of Riding Award to Laura Pfeiffer of Temperance, Michigan. The Friar Tuck Perpetual Trophy, which is awarded to the Grand Champion of the Green Conformation Hunters each year, was presented to rider Hunt Tosh and Bozeman who is owned by Cismant Manor Farm. It should come as no surprise that Tracy Fenney was awarded the 2008 HITS Ocala Leading Rider Award. Fenney, who had what appeared to be at times an unstoppable run in Ocala this season with four Grand Prix wins to her credit, finished in ninth place aboard Grace in Sunday's Grand Finale.
In addition, the Stallion Services Department of the Equine Medical Center of Ocala, Florida awarded the Leading Mare Award to David Beisel and Patoile as they finished the highest in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group. The award consists of a free embryo transfer, which will be performed by Dr. Corey Miller, head of reproduction at the Ocala-based veterinary hospital.
Finally, Natalie Green, winner of WTRS 102.3 Thunder Country Radio's National Anthem Contest, performed the Star-Spangled Banner before the start of the Grand Prix. The young singer wowed the crowd with her talent and was awarded a check for $500 from DeLuca Toyota.
HITS, Inc. is a special events management company primarily focused on producing hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, Florida in 1982. Since that time, HITS has grown into a nationwide company with world-class hunter/jumper circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia.
For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit http://www.HitsShows.com
PHOTO:©Lili Weik Photography; Aaron Vale holds his hand high as he rides Blue Danube to victory in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix, presented by Great American Insurance Group to close out the 2008 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit at HITS Post Time Farm.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/aaron-vale-danube-deluca-toyota-04-08.html">Aaron Vale Rides Blue Danube to Victory in the $100,000 DeLuca Toyota Tundra Grand Prix</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com