Upperville, Va.—June 12
Coming into the the jump-off for the $216,000 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI****, Eugenio Garza Perez had a plan.
And then he saw Aaron Vale’s jump-off round with Finou 4.
“Beating [Vale] seemed very difficult when I went in,” said Perez. “Our plan was to do eight strides from [fence 1] to 2, and then I saw him go, and he did seven, so that changed our plan. And then he was just incredibly fast, and we gave it our all. Fortunately enough, it was enough.”
Perez and Bariano stopped the clock at 36.85 seconds, just ahead of Vale’s time of 37.20, taking home the lion’s share of the prize money in his first trip to the Upperville Colt and Horse Show.
“I loved it,” the 19-year-old rider from Mexico said. “The course rode really nice. It had a lot of questions in it and a lot of options. It was careful and scopey. It was definitely a challenge for a four-star. It was one of the biggest tracks I’ve jumped with him, so to have this result is really special.”
Due to the format of the class, the top eight riders from the first round returned, regardless of whether they’d jumped clean around Michel Vaillencourt’s initial track. Six riders jumped clear, and the two fastest 4-faulters, Amanda Derbyshire with Lady Maria BH and Marilyn Little on Corona 93, were able to return.
“It’s definitely a little bit different than normal grand prixs,” said Perez. “Of course your stance after the first round, you either like it or hate it. In my position, after the first round, you have to think about it a little because now 4-faulters can affect your position in the end. But I think it’s a great format. I personally like it. The time counts for something in the first round other than just being the time allowed.”
|Eugenio Garza Perez gave Bariano some love before the awards. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.|
Perez was paired with a special horse. He purchased his mount Bariano (Jetset-D—Ulderina Van Westleven) in 2012 as his high children’s jumper. The pair jumped to the gold medal at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (Ky.) in 2013, before moving on to grand prix classes.
“To go into a grand prix like that with a horse that I know, it’s really special,” said Perez. “He’s 15 years old now, but he’s jumping better than ever, so we’ll keep going.”
The triple combination, 7ABC, in the first round saw the most rails as the careful vertical in the middle of two oxers was tipped from the cups time and time again. The other combination late in the course, 12AB, also saw trouble throughout the class. High winds played a factor as jumps fell during numerous rounds. The only rider greatly affected was Little, who was approaching fence 2 in the jump-off when the standards fell. The clock was stopped as the fence was reset, and the judges allowed her to restart the course completely with fence 1 being marked as clear regardless.
Vale Turns His Luck Around
After a fire destroyed his house in Williston, Fla., last Friday, Vale arrived on the Upperville showgrounds looking for a change in luck.
With only about a half a week’s worth of show clothes remaining in his camper, Vale dominated the FEI classes, winning the $35,000 Upperville Speed Stakes with Quidam’s Good Luck and the $40,000 Upperville Welcome Stakes with Finou 4, who also finished second in the grand prix. His top placings helped him earn the leading open jumper rider award.
|Aaron Vale’s second-placed finish in the $216,000 Upperville Jumper Classic with Finou 4 helped him take home the leading open jumper rider honor. Photo by Laura Lemon.|
Finou 4, who Vale described as a sensitive-minded horse, proved to be one of the top horses in the grand prix field after the pair received the first clear round of the class. In the jump-off, Vale and Finou 4 became the time to beat after the two initiated a galloping ride in between the first two fences, leaving out a stride.
“The main thing is he just physically has so much ability,” Aaron said. “He can jump good fences easily. He’s got a huge stride. But at the same time he’s very elastic. You can add a stride. You can leave two out. So physically he’s got a lot of tools.”
View more photos from the grand prix in a gallery here.
Want more from Upperville? Read about the other young riders making headlines in the derby. Pick up a copy of the July 11 issue of the Chronicle for an in-depth look at the riders and horses who made headlines.
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