Culpeper, VA (October 3, 2004)—


Show jumping talent abounds at HITS Culpeper, and Aaron Vale of Aiken, South Carolina and Ocala, FL, came out on top in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix—the warm-up class to Sunday's $100,000 U.S. Grand Prix League Finals. A field of 52 horse and rider combinations competed over Olaf Petersen's 13-obstacle first-round course. Petersen was the course designer for the Athens Olympics, and his celebrity status was matched by the field of entries. Spectators enjoyed Olympic-level competition, with such names as Canadian Ian Millar and his Olympic horse Promise Me, and U.S. Olympic Team Silver Medal Winner McLain Ward.

The star-studded field was whittled down to eleven horses in the jump-off. "Designing this course can be quite a challenge," said Olaf Petersen. "Unlike Sunday, everyone can enter the class, so I had to thread a fine line between making it too difficult or too easy. I used little tricks, and the wide plank vertical after the triple combination proved to be a good test. With eleven in the jump-off I was happy, that made for good competition."

Petersen shortened the course to seven elements for the jump-off. Peter Pletcher and Charmed were the first to attempt the course. The pair posted a clear round in a time to beat of 49.38 seconds. Leslie Howard and Youp knocked 4 seconds off Pletcher's time to finish in 45.34 seconds with all the rails up. Howard and Youp took second place in the competition. Anne Kursinski and Roxana 112 were the next pair to post a clear round, crossing the timers in 47.41 seconds for fifth place. Leslie Howard took to the field on her second mount, Gallop De Beaumont. A clear round in a time of 46.89 seconds gave them fourth place. Kristi Smith and On The Sly gave it all in a fault-free round. Their time was fast, but still shy of Howard's lead with 45.80 seconds on the clock. The pair finished in third place overall. Molly Ashe and Paloma took their turn, and added another clear round. Their careful time of 50.28 seconds left them in seventh place. With two horses left to jump, Leslie Howard's lead-time of 45.34 seconds remained untouched. Aaron Vale and Margie Goldstein Engle would finish out the field, and given their reputations the crowd was assured of an exciting finish to the competition. Vale blazed through the course on Boxster, crossing the timers in 44.94 seconds with all the rails up—shaving just over half a second off Howard's lead. Margie Goldstein Engle and Nobility finished out the field with two knockdowns, sealing Vale's victory.

When asked if he felt confidant that he could beat Howard's time in the jump-off, Vale replied - "I was sitting on a Thoroughbred and there was a lot of galloping, so I knew I could beat the time. The kid at the ingate said to me after Leslie's round, 'so what did you think of that.' I told him I could go faster, I just had to leave all the rails up."

Vale's winning mount, Boxster, is a 16.3 hands, 9 year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding, jointly-owned by Stuart & Karen Tinney and Tim Game, all of Sydney, Australia. "Boxster arrived in the U.S. from Australia over the summer, and when Australian rider George Sanner returned home, I caught the ride," said Vale. "This is my fourth time showing him, and we are starting to see results." Vale and Boxster had a previous second place win in the $25,000 Prix de Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky.

$25,000 HITS Grand Prix - Friday, October 1, 2004
HITS Culpeper, Wild Card Class USGPL Finals - Culpeper, VA
Olaf Petersen, Germany: Course Designer
Place Horse Rider Owner Prize Money Rd 1Faults Rd 2 Faults JO Time
1st - Boxster - Aaron Vale - S&K TINNEY/T GAME - $7,500 - 0 0 44.94
2nd - Youp - Leslie Howard - S'BLIEFT GROUP - $5,500 - 0 0 45.34
3rd - On The Sly - Kristi Smith - KNIGHTS FORK INC - $3,250 - 0 0 45.80
4th - Gallop Du Beaumont - Leslie Howard - LESLIE HOWARD - $2,000 - 0 0 46.89
5th - Roxanna 112 - Anne Kursinski - SCOTT HAKIM - $1,500 - 0 0 47.41
6th - Charmed - Peter Pletcher - ALEX DILLARD - $1,250 - 0 0 49.38
7th - Paloma - Molly Ashe - JANE F CLARK - $1,000 - 0 0 50.28
8th - Promise Me - Ian Millar - THE BAKER'S DOZEN - $750 - 0 4 47.83
9th - Nobility - Margie Goldstein Engle - ROBERT PERGAMENT - $750 - 0 8 45.65
10th - Caucalis - Ramiro Quintana - FREDERICK GRAHAM - $500 - 0 8 55.36
11th - Norappa La Silla - Marilyn Little - CLUB HIPICO LA SILLA - $500 - 0 8 61.88
12th - Gardenio - Todd Minikus - Y Z PARTNERS LLC - $500 - 3

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