Ocala, FL – It was standing room only at World Equestrian Center – Ocala for the $100,000 Alltech Grand Prix during week V of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series. The night culminated with local fan-favorite Aaron Vale (USA) piloting Alise Carrico and Thinks Like A Horse’s Cristo Beech (Its The Business x Ragua) to the horse’s very first Saturday night grand prix win at World Equestrian Center – Ocala.
FEI Level III course designer Peter Grant (CAN) set the tracks for tonight’s class where 14 managed to qualify for the returning jump-off. The short course proved to be a challenge as only five found a double-clean effort.
“The jump-off was a nice technical track. The tricky part was the two right turns. You had to turn right and land right, then after the big oxer in the middle you had to turn right and leave right again. When you come right and leave left, it’s a bit easier for the horses to jump clear. Then the last combination was pretty tight for most horses, so the rails were coming down a lot there,” said Vale.
Olympian Cian O’Connor (IRL) and Nicole Walker’s Eve D’ouilly (Qlassic Bois Margot x Tefnout D’ouilly) were the first pair to find a double-clean effort. O’Connor and the talented nine-year-old mare found a fast track in 44.567 seconds to set the pace for the remainder of the class.
Numerous entries tried to find O’Connor’s quick time, but all faced rails along the way. It wasn’t until Aaron Vale (USA) entered the arena aboard his first mount I Adermie R 4 (Den Ham Blue R x W.Adermie 1) owned by Lori Osterstock. Vale and the ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare soared around the track in 43.686 seconds to snatch the lead.
Victory seemed to be sealed as more competitors fell victim to rails down in the jump-off, but Santiago Lambre (BRA) entered the arena aboard his own Pampero (Chacco-blue x Naloutaire) with the determination to find a clear round.
Lambre and the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding flew around the jump-off track in a blistering fast time of 42.607 seconds to take over the top spot on the leaderboard.
Richard Spooner and Show Jumping Syndications International’s Quirado RC found a clean jump-off track, but fell short with a time of 45.865 seconds.
Vale had one more chance to try and secure the victory on his final mount Cristo Beech.
“He is a little bit quirky. I didn’t know if I could get the eight done. I turned the corner and saw a fast spot to the fence one – I wasn’t even sure if I could get to that spot. I landed and wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing, but I just kept kicking with the hopes he would take off and he did,” chuckled Vale.
“After I got the eight, I turned as fast as I could to the liver pool. He usually pushes back a little bit and tips the back rail to big oxers like the one in the middle, so I tried to stay wide enough where I could keep running as fast as I could to get his eye on it long enough where I could keep going after. I turned right back to the yellow, not super tight, but you needed a little momentum away from that off of the 270-degree turn. Then I ran over to the in-and-out and almost chipped in, because for some reason that’s how he jumps it best. Then I did eight to the last like everyone else.”
The pair flew through the finish in 42.110 seconds to secure the victory.
Vale spoke about his talented up-and-coming mount, “He has been very consistent. He’s been jumping a lot of clear rounds, so he’s been getting some more chances in the jump-off,” said Vale.
“He is a quirky horse. He is scared of other horses in the warmup area, so you have to be cautious, because if he gets jarred by one, he stiffens up his body and is a totally different horse. Even though he’s quirky, I really enjoy his personality. He should have more confidence in himself than he does. He reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live skit, Daily Affirmations. ‘Doggone it, people like me.’ He doesn’t think horses like him. He’s a shy, neat little animal, and I think that’s one of the things I love best about him.”
An additional $5,000 was awarded to the fastest four-faulter of the $100,000 Alltech Grand Prix. Rodrigo Pessoa and Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC’s Quality FZ received the award with an incredibly fast time of 77.651 seconds with one down.
$100,000 Alltech Grand Prix Results:
1 Cristo Beech, Aaron Vale (USA), Alise Carrico & Thinks Like A Horse: 0 | 0 | 42.110
2 Pampero, Santiago Lambre (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 0 | 0 | 42.607
3 I Adermie R 4, Aaron Vale (USA), Lori Ostertock: 0 | 0 43.686
4 Eve D’ouilly, Cian O’Connor (IRL), Nicole Walker: 0 | 0 | 44.567
5 Quirado RC, Richard Spooner (USA), Show Jumping Syndications International: 0 | 0 | 45.865
6 Comtess 202, Santiago Lambre (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 0 | 4 | 43.338
7 Valentine Car, Sharn Wordley (NZL), Fernando Cardenas Jr.: 0 | 4 | 43.624
8 MTM Apple, Tracy Fenney (USA), MTM Farm: 0 | 8 | 41.607
9 Verdini D’Houtveld Z, Lauren Balcomb (AUS), Lauren Balcomb: 0 | 8 | 48.886
10 Rock Of Cashel, Tom Wachman (IRL), Coolmore Showjumping: 0 | 8 | 49.027