Obi Wan and Aaron Vale Victorious in $100,000 Alliant Private Client Grand Prix at HITS Ocala
Ocala, Fla. – March 19, 2023 – Saving the best for last, Aaron Vale flew to victory aboard Obi Wan during Sunday’s $100,000 Alliant Private Client Grand Prix at HITS Ocala. Capturing their third major victory of the season, Vale proved that his veteran partner is in top form heading into the final week of competition and the biggest purse of the year during the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, March 26. Last week’s winners, Sharn Wordley and Valentine Car, took home the second place honors, while Katherine Anne Brewer and Casido 2 placed third.
“It's great,” smiled Vale after his win. “Obi Wan loves the footing here and the jumps, and everything about this arena. He's had a wonderful circuit. This is his third win here, and he's just relishing jumping at HITS this winter.”
Aaron Vale and Obi Wan. Photo by ESI Photography
Thirty-three entries showcased their skills over the Catsy Cruz design track, which tested riders from start to finish, concluding with an oxer-vertical double combination on a bending line to the final wide Alliant oxer towards the gate. Eleven advanced to the jump-off, which included several tight turns before finishing over the same final line.
Katherine Anne Brewer and Casido 2. Photo by: ESI Photography
Eight of the 11 qualified entries produced a second clear effort, and Brewer was the first to do so in under 38 seconds. She was fourth in the return order and managed to leave all the rails intact aboard Casido 2, stopping the clock at 37.621 seconds. Two rounds later, Wordley and Valentine Car were able to up the ante with a fault-free round in a speedy 36.379 seconds, which looked like it might win the day until Vale returned with Obi Wan. Leaving out a stride to the double combination, the duo raced through the timers in 35.432 seconds to take over the top spot and lead the lap honor.
Sharn Wordley and Valentine Car. Photo by ESI Photography
“Sharn put in a really quick round on Valentine and I wasn't sure how I would catch him,” admitted Vale. “My horse spends a little more time in the air and I thought Sharn had done the fewest strides possible, but I think I ended up shaving the turn back to number two and I was maybe faster leaving a stride or two out on the way to the last combination. I was able to get enough done to to edge him out.”
Vale and Obi Wan have had a long, successful partnership, and despite his quirks, Vale enjoys having the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding as part of his team. “Obi Wan's a bit of a nervous horse, but what makes that worthwhile is the fact that he doesn't want to touch the fences,” he noted. “It's worth working through the difficult parts of his training because he always wants to try and jump higher than the jump.”
Vale is now looking ahead to next week’s Great American $300,000 Grand Prix. “Hopefully, Obi Wan’s got a little more in the tank for next week, and I'll have another horse or two here with him as well,” he concluded. “So hopefully we can have some good luck during the final week of the circuit.”
The HITS Ocala Championship will feature several exciting events, including the Antares Equitation Championship, the $25,000 Peterson & Smith High Child/Adult Jumper Classic and the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix. The main event will get underway at 1pm on Sunday, March 26, with free admission for all to watch some of the best horse and rider combinations vie for the biggest purse of the season at HITS Post Time Farm. For more information visit www.hitsshows.com.