Two-for-Two! Aaron Vale and Obi Wan Win $75,000 Showcase Properties Grand Prix at HITS Ocala
Ocala, Fla. – February 12, 2023 – Obi Wan proved that he is officially back in top form, winning his second grand prix of the week with Aaron Vale during the $75,000 Showcase Properties Grand Prix at HITS Ocala. Saving the best for last, Vale and Obi Wan topped a seven-horse jump-off with two seconds to spare as the last to compete during Sunday’s highlight event. Sharn Wordley and his winning mount from week two, Mick Jagger, claimed the second-place prize, while Vale also earned the third-place honors with Elvis De Wijendaele Z. The highest-placed female rider was Dorothy Douglas, who was double clear with MTM Cedrik and received the Everleigh Collection Best Turned Out Award.
The fourth week of HITS Ocala marks Obi Wan’s first week back in the show ring after an injury this fall, and Vale is excited to have the 10-year-old Warmblood gelding back in top condition. “He is ahead of schedule, mentally, from where I thought he'd be, so I am just thrilled with where he is,” expressed Vale. “We'll be trying to keep him healthy and happy for the [Great American $300,000 Grand Prix] at the end of the season, with some stuff sprinkled in between now and then.”
Aaron Vale and Obi Wan. Photo by: ESI Photography
Florencio Hernandez set a long and technical first-round track for Sunday’s $75,000 Showcase Properties Grand Prix, which eventually yielded seven clear rounds. The tiebreaker began with a bending line to a large oxer, utilized the entire Grand Prix ring, and finished with a gallop away from the gate over a delicate vertical. Vale was the pathfinder with Elvis De Wijendaele Z, producing the first clear jump-off and setting the Great American time to beat at 48.280 seconds. Douglas and MTM Cedrik were next, and while they left all the rails intact, their time of 50.909 seconds would eventually place fourth.
Aaron Vale and Elvis De Wijendaele Z. Photo by: ESI Photography
Wordley and Mick Jagger took to the Grand Prix ring next and had their eye on Vale’s path with Elvis De Wijendaele Z, clocking in just ahead with a clear round in 48.120 seconds to go to the top of the leaderboard. The following two riders each tried to chase Wordley’s time, but it came at the expense of a rail each time. Vale was the last to return with Obi Wan, and with a victory already in hand for the week, Vale felt confident that his mount would be able to make up the time. They galloped quickly over the track, easily clearing the fences and leaving out a stride to the final vertical, blazing across the finish line in 46.281 to run away with the win.
Sharn Wordley and Mick Jagger. Photo by: ESI Photography
“I had two rides in there and my first one was early, so I was maybe a little bit conservative on Elvis turning back to the last combination,” explained Vale. “Then to the last fence I could have been a little more aggressive, but I wanted to try and put in a clean score. I was a bit more aggressive [with Obi Wan]. I was a bit tighter back to the combination and definitely left a stride out to the last fence. He is naturally a quick-moving horse, and then you cut a corner and leave a stride out and you're ahead. I know Obi Wan a bit better, so I know where I can take a little chance and shave a little time off because I've been riding him for a few years now.”
During Sunday’s jump-off, the first to return was Vale’s wife Mallory aboard the 9-year-old Warmblood gelding Gray’s Inn, making the day a family affair. “Normally, she does the High Amateurs,” noted Aaron. “I've jumped [Gray’s Inn] in a few grand prix classes and now she's starting to do him herself. It's good mileage for her and the horse, but it's actually been a while since we competed in a grand prix against each other, so it's a fun day!”
Jumper action will continue for six more weeks in the new Grand Prix ring at HITS Ocala. The Overlook Club features a perfect view of the ring and is open to all, with a special brunch every Sunday for $45 per person during the weekly grand prix. The season culminates with the Great American $300,000 Grand Prix on Sunday, March 26, with one of the biggest purses in the country. Visit the horse show office or www.hitsshows.com for more information.