OCALA, FL (March 8, 2004)—

Aaron Vale looks like he is set on a course to top his own record. The talented Grand Prix rider, who holds the record for the most Grand Prix wins in a single year, has captured his fourth Grand Prix victory at HITS Ocala with Sunday's $50,000 King Shavings Grand Prix. A technical first round course reduced the field of thirty-five starters to only two riders—Vale who originally hails from Texas, and Canadian show-jumping legend Ian Millar. The exciting two-horse jump-off saw both riders go clear, but Vale snatched the win when he tipped the timers over three seconds faster than his esteemed rival.

Vale's winning mount was Cortino, owned by Town Creek Investment. He also placed four other horses in the money—fourth with Quendo, fifth with Pop Socks, seventh with Romulus, and eleventh with Solitude's Jas. Aaron Vale's total winnings in the competition amounted to $25,000. Ian Millar picked up $11,000 for placing second aboard Sweet Dreams, owned by Scotia Farms. Millar is competing in the Grand Prix ring at HITS Ocala with his son, Jonathon, and daughter, Amy. Jonathon placed 12th in Sunday's competition aboard Karat.

Course designer, Danny Foster of Georgetown, Ontario, set a challenging first round course. The time allowed was originally set at 96 seconds, but was adjusted to 100 seconds after the first three riders failed to complete within the time allowed. Despite the adjustment the time was still tight, and required a bit of galloping between fences to avoid incurring time faults.

The trickiest part of the course came near the end, at fences 8, 9A-B, and 10. This was the line going away from home that consisted of a triple bar that, while not very tall, was very wide, then a short four strides to the vertical - vertical in-and-out, then on to another wide oxer. This in-and-out was tricky in itself, with the A element being an airy vertical with a Liverpool underneath, to the B element which was a solid panel. This was both a visual test and a distance test, as the short four-stride distance after the triple bar required riders to shorten their horse's stride immediately to have enough room jumping into the in-and-out. It was a difficult test, as Fence 9A came down 23 times during the class.

Aaron Vale's winning horse, Cortino, did not show earlier in the week, Vale deciding rather to practice flatwork and gymnastics exercises with this 8 year-old bay gelding that came from Germany last November. "I remembered a great gymnastic that Tim Grubb taught me a while back, so I just practiced that all week. I think when we jumped into the in-and-out line, he (Cortino) just remembered that gymnastic and that's why he came back so readily and was able to jump the in-and-out clean."

© 2004 Lili Weik Photography
Aaron Vale and Cortino -
Winners of $50,000 King Shavings Grand Prix
(Click on images for enlargements)

© 2004 Lili Weik Photography
Aaron Vale and Cortino -
Also in picture - Kristen Vale (Aaron's sister, far left) and two members of HITS Ocala charity beneficiary -
Take Stock in Children

Foster shortened the course to eight obstacles for the jump-off. Ian Millar went first. "It was most important to jump clean, and less important to be fast," said Millar. "So I tried to be neat and tidy with my turns to at least post a challenging enough time for Aaron coming behind me." Millar and Sweet Dreams kept up a quick pace, finishing in 53.29 seconds. Vale had a definite advantage getting to watch Millar take to the jump-off course first. Vale knew that Millar had won a very fast class earlier in the week on Sweet Dreams, and knew he would have to be quick to catch Ian's time. "My horse has a long smooth stride and really covers the ground well. I figured that if I just followed the same path as Ian, I could still be faster," said Vale. "The ring was freshly dragged before the jump-off, so I could see the hoofprints of Ian's horse. I just followed right in his tracks."

Vale's horse had a stumble early in the course that might have slowed him down a bit, but he made up for it with an aggressive gallop on the long approach to the last jump in front of the grandstand. "The last jump was a pretty big, wide oxer, but it had a little set of walls in front of it which allowed you to gallop to it without worrying too much. And I didn't know if I was as fast on the rest of the course as I thought I was, so I wanted to be sure!" Vale powered past the timers in 50.08 seconds, a full three seconds ahead of Ian Millar's time.

Other major award winners at Ocala Tournament IV included:
Bayer Legend Leading Hunter Rider - Jennifer Alfano, Buffalo, NY
Bayer Legend Leading Jumper Rider - Aaron Vale, Aiken, SC
Charles Owen Adult Medal - Stephanie Britton-Black, Oviedo, FL
Charles Owen Children's Medal - Caitlin Henry, Longwood, FL
HBO Junior Medal - Kacey McCann, Palmyra, PA

Jennifer Alfano of Buffalo, New York, is having an outstanding circuit at HITS Ocala. Jennifer was presented with her third Bayer Legend Leading Hunter Rider award—an award that is presented to the winningest hunter rider at the close of each week during the circuit.

Aaron Vale was presented with the Bayer Legend Leading Jumper Rider award for the fourth week in a row. Aaron is also a sure bet for the Equus Entries Leading Grand Prix Rider award. With a total of 96 points in the standings, Vale can't be beat. Harold Chopping is next in the ranking with 40 points. When named at the close of the circuit, the Equus Entries Leading Grand Prix Rider will take home a beautiful "Super Bowl" ring inlaid with precious stones courtesy of Equus Entries.

The next Grand Prix event at HITS Ocala—the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix will take place on Thursday, March 11th. On Sunday, March 14th, spectators will enjoy world-class show jumping competition as riders compete for top honors in the Grand Finale of the circuit, the $100,000 HITS Grand Prix.

For more information on the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, please visit www.hitsshows.com.

$50,000 King Shavings Grand Prix - Sunday, March 7, 2004 HITS Ocala IV - Ocala, FL
Course Designer: Danny Foster, Georgetown, Ontario





Prize Money

Rd1 Faults

JO Faults

JO Time



Aaron Vale

Town Creek Investment






Sweet Dreams

Ian Millar

Scotia Farms






Marly Du Beaumont

Kim Burnette

Kimberden Farm





Aaron Vale

Town Creek Investment




Pop Socks

Aaron Vale

Temecula Valley Equestrian Center





Jay Hayes

North Ridge / Uplands Farm





Aaron Vale

Town Creek Investment






Promised Land

Derek Petersen

Derek / Anita Peterson



9th Eldor 7 Hajo Giebel AGB Eldor LLC $1,500 8    
10th Lebora Tracy Bartko Magness M / M John Bartko $1,000 8    
11th Solitude's Jas Aaron Vale Solitude Farm $1,000 8    
12th Karat Jonathon Millar Millar Brooke Ltd $1,000 8    

Ocala Winter Finals V - March 10-14

$25,000 HITS Grand Prix - Thursday, March 11 at 1:00pm
$25,000 Marshall & Sterling Junior / Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic - Sunday, March 14 at 10:00am
$25,000 Marshall & Sterling Child / Adult Jumper Classic Sunday, March 14 at 12:00 noon
$100,000 King Shavings Grand Prix of Ocala presented by Great American Insurance Group - Sunday, March 14 at 2:00pm

Grand Finale - Sunday, March 14
Champions of the Week Presentations are held on Sundays prior to the 1:00pm Grand Prix.

POST TIME FARM: 13710 U.S. Hwy 27; Ocala, Florida 34482; Tel: 352-620-2275. Website: www.HitsShows.com

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