Ocala, FL (March 29, 2016): Riders vied for the top spot and a slice of the prize purse in the 2016 Ocala Winter Circuit's last qualifying opportunities for the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix and the $250,000 Platinum Performance Hunter Finals at the HITS Championship in September in Saugerties, New York.
Aaron Vale and Dress Balou Score Another Big Win in the $25,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix
Devoucoux has sponsored a Hunter Prix nearly every week of the HITS, Ocala Winter Circuit and Week X’s Devoucoux Hunter Prix featured a $25,000 prize purse held in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium. Aaron Vale of Williston, Florida, scored a trifecta by collecting first, second and third-place finishes, adding to his already impressive resume. He earned the win on Don Stewart’s Dress Balou, a two time winner of the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final at HITS Saugerties, for which the Devoucoux Hunter Prix are qualifiers.
Thirty-nine competitors had the opportunity to compete over the first round course of twelve fences designed by Tim Hott from Cumming, Iowa.
“The course was a traditional hunter course in a big ring, where the jumps were spread out with some long bending lines, and just a few lines with related distances,” said Vale in regard to the course. “There was a lot of additional greenery, which was nice to impress the horses a bit this late in the circuit.”
The top twelve riders returned for a second round with scores ranging from 80.5 to 89 from their first rounds carrying over to their second.
Vale and Dress Balou, owned by Don Stewart, had the high score of 89 from the first round and returned as the final competitor in the second round. They improved upon their first round, scoring a 92 for a total of 181 for the win.
“Dress Balou is seven this year, and he has shown a few times this season,” said Vale of his winning horse. “He won the [$10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix in Week IV] and I don’t think we’ve shown him since then. He really suits these big arenas where he can just pick up a rhythm and he jumps really well.”
Vale also had the second highest score in round one aboard Madewell, owned by the Aberdeen Ventures. His score of 87 in the first round and 89 in the second round, combined for a total of 176 to take second-place.
“My assistant showed Madewell last year in the pre-greens, and I took over the ride this season and have been doing him in the Hunter Prix,” said Vale. “He has had a couple weeks where he was really good in the first round then had an unlucky rail or something in the second, so this is a really impressive ribbon to be just behind Dress Balou, the two time Finals winner.”
Vale garnered the third-place prize with Spalding, owned by Don Stewart and Brooke Ventos.
“I’ve never sat on him before this class, Don just threw me up on him.” said Vale of Spalding. In a testament to Vale’s skill, his first round score with his new mount of 84.5 combined with a second round score of 86, gave him a total of 170.5 to take third-place.
Harold Chopping from Southern Pines, North Carolina, riding Caramo, owned by Caroline Russell Howe, scored an 86 in round one, but Caramo uncharacteristically spooked in round 2 and his score of 81.5 dropped him to sixth-place overall with a total score of 167.5.
Cassandre Kahle of Langley, British Columbia, riding Diario for Redfield Farm, improved upon her first round score of 82.5 with an 87 in the second round to move into fourth-place overall with a 169.5.
||Aberdeen Ventures LLC
||Don Stewart & Brooke Ventzos
||Great Span LLC
||Caroline Russell Howe
||Elizabeth Van Nostrand