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Samantha Pyle Wins Elements Jumper Classic & Aaron Vale Takes Grand Prix

Green Cove Springs, FL – Kicking off a weekend dedicated to jumpers, Samantha Pyle of Street, MD and partner Pia took top honors in the $5,000 Children’s-Adult Jumper Classic presented by Elements on Friday evening.

Despite tackling a field of 22, plus a tough course by Allen Rheinheimer, Pyle’s biggest test was “working out the kinks” according to trainer Christine Kear. Friday’s classes are typically a “practice day” in preparation of classics on Sunday explained Kear, “she [Samantha] had other horses to ride, other classes to do, but thank heaven we had all day to work it all out before the classic.”

All smiles and laughing now, Samantha shared some of the difficult spots on Rheinheimer’s 84 second winding first track of 13 obstacles. “When I came around to jump #4, the swedish oxer, because of the hard right turn I really had to ride her [Pia] up to it and I was afraid I wouldn’t get her to it.” The pair sailed over and galloped on to the 5AB vertical-oxer combination-no problems. Further into the layout Pyle and Pia picked up the pace after landing on an arc off the #8 oxer as they headed towards #9- a vertical over the liverpool, “I had to stay out wider and I felt we’d got tangled.” Pyle said. Pia however took it like a seasoned pro and brought them home clear in 83.692.

The 10-year old mare joined Pyle’s family 6 months ago, “It was a rocky start.” Kear explained, “They both had to learn to trust the other.” Agreeing Pyle was quick to state, “she’s [Pia] taught me a lot!” Both trainer and student said the striking dark bay is fast, and this victory is a huge milestone in their progress. No doubt their performance in the dash for the cash round cemented their bond further. 14 qualified for the 46-second layout of 8 fences, a course full of more twisty turns, sharp rollbacks, and a gallop to the finish that had spectators going wild. First out Hayley Waters of Sparr, FL and mount Rocky not only set the bar, but also held the lead over the pack with a quick time of 37.047. Seventh in the return order were Samantha and Pia. Cantering into the arena this duo didn’t hold back- it was all or nothing tonight. They made an unbelievable decision coming off the #4 swedish oxer in a solid run towards the 5AB combo, leaving out strides they took flight over the fences and preceded to make a pin point turn for the last bending line of jumps. “We’ve been very conservative and a couple of times we’ve made it to the jump off of classics, but had oopes. So I just told her [Samantha] all day she just needs to go in there and get it done.” trainer Kear said and added with a big laugh, “Didn’t necessarily mean leaving it out for the in and out, but if that’s what it took.” Kear went on to express the pride of seeing how despite the risky maneuver Samantha kept on without hesitation. “We got it done!” Samantha chimed in. As the crowd recovered their breath the pair crossed the timer clear in 36.305 and took over the lead. Seven remained including Hayley Waters with another mount and circuit veterinarian “Wild Man” Dr. Juan Gamboa, all gave it their best but when the dust settled Pyle and Pia strode into the winners circle.

Asked what was next, a friend passing by shouted out “win some more!” Samantha beamed saying they’d finish out the series here next week before heading on to Ocala and inching closer to goals of grand prix competition. And trainer Christine added, “We’ve got the guts for it- we’re getting the horses for it, so just need some more mileage.”

Final results found Hayley Waters and Rocky in 2nd place with a clear 37.047 seconds, 3rd went to owner-rider Dr. Juan Gamboa with Partizan going faultless in 37.432; 4th place to Rachel Herman with partner Levaro in a clean 37.667 and completing the top 5 was Nicole Deschler riding the Claire Lee owned Linus with a clear time of 37.727.

Jumping thrills continued in Saturday evening’s featured event, the $25,000 Marco Family Grand Prix to benefit The Donna Foundation, which cares for women living with breast cancer. However, prior to 32 equine warriors taking the field an assembly of 5 special fighters commandeered the arena to lift spirits and inspire hope. The Ride for Life Drill team, comprised of Patty Kelbert, Donna Grasso, Michelle Valasco, Debbie McNally, and Mary Giftos gave a performance of musical Dressage to honor all women currently living with or survivors of breast cancer. To date the foundation has raised over a million dollars to aid those in need.

And then the tone rang out signaling the competitors of the main event were ready to do battle against course, time, and fellow equestrians. He may have started second in the order of go, but Ocala, FL based Aaron Vale ended an exciting night of show jumping as number one. Vale had two mounts in contention, bringing back week one’s victor Platinum, owned by ABC 4 Horses, and tonight’s main man Sinatra IV, co-owned by Vale and Donald Stewart.

Course designer Allen Rheinheimer of Zionsville, IN set an intricate layout of broken lines and multiple rollbacks-including the hard right off swedish oxer #10 into swedish oxer #11. Providing a generous time allowance of 86 seconds for the first round, the majority of riders taking on the 13-obstacle layout had their hopes dashed early by a red plank topped vertical at #2. “I knew there were some quick ones behind me.” Vale began, “I kinda had a plan for what I wanted to do. I came pretty close to what I wanted.” Given that Vale and the coming 9 year-old gelding were the first to go clear with a blazing time of 77.380- almost 10 seconds below the allowed, one has to ask what more could he have desired? With a laugh he replied, “Well…my horse doesn’t really have the biggest stride and he backs off the jump when you’re galloping. Like from the second swedish oxer to the vertical there were maybe 8 strides there and I got 9. Had I got 8 then I wouldn’t have thought anybody could have beaten him, but that one extra stride left a little bit of a door open.”

Thirteen more horses joined Sinatra IV for the deciding round of 7 obstacles [8 efforts] that kept the twin swedish oxers and the now feared #2 fence with the red plank. Time was set at 42 seconds. Vale and Sinatra would be first to go with the likes of Olympic rider Sharn Wordley and speed demons Wilhelm Genn and Kyle King waiting in the wings. “They raised the verticals in the jump off so my quick round put more pressure on everyone else.” Vale said. Asked about the pressure on him in having to be the pace setter he answered, “A little bit, but at this point I know what my horse can do and I really didn’t ask anything I didn’t think he could do. I took what was there and tried to do as well as he [Sinatra] could.” Their best resulted in a sizzling run over the course and a final time of 33.237. Genn and the fiery chestnut Happy Z turned and burned the course, but fell just short on time to finish clear in 34.923. Donald Stewart’s rider Megan Edrick aboard the Procedures, Inc entry Kandel seemed poised to unseat Vale’s lead, but a rear hoof shimmy across the last rail found them finishing with 4 faults, yet matching Vale’s time of 33.237. When the last rider, Tony Font of Magnolia, TX, crossed the line, the timer told the story- clean but a little slower at 37.727. Vale and Sinatra IV were victorious. The triumph has moved Vale into the lead for the $10,000 Grand Prix rider bonus race. “Are you sure?” the astonished winner asked then quickly assured everyone he would return for the finale next week with a broad smile.

Official results for the $25,000 Marco Family Grand Prix were; Aaron Vale and Sinatra IV in first place with their clear time of 33.237. Second place went to Wilhelm Genn and Happy Z with a clear final of 34.923; third to Tony Font riding Gardenio for owner YZ Partners, LLC in a clear 37.727; fourth to Megan Edrick and Kandel with 4 faults in 33.237, and rounding out the top five was 15 year-old Laura Pfeiffer aboard Thorstin for owner Fox Meadow Farm finishing with 4 faults in 36.064.

The Jacksonville Winter Series continues until February 1st with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM. Coming up the $35,000 Jacksonville A to Z Grand Prix benefiting the Jacksonville Zoo on Sunday February 1st at 2PM. Special visitors from the Zoo will be on hand to meet, a very special Silent Auction opens at 11AM and luncheon by Outback Steakhouse at Noon with proceeds going to the Zoo. Tickets for luncheon can be purchased at the show. Admission to the shows are free, a $5 donation is requested for special events, which in turn is given to various local charities. For more information or results on the 2009 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit http://www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 904-284-1579.

Photo Credit: Samantha Pyle & Pia; Aaron Vale & Sinatra IV ©Flashpoint Photography

** Photos may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release


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