Vale Sticks To His Plan for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final

Sep 6, 2015 - 7:46 AM

Saugerties, N.Y.—Sept. 6

As soon as last year’s Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix finished last year, Don Stewart and Aaron Vale started planning. They knew they wanted the now 6-year-old gelding Dress Balou to come back to defend his title this year.

So they set a plan and kept to it. Show the gelding minimally and have him peak at just the right time. All that careful planning paid off when they accomplished exactly what they set out to do—take home the top prize for the second year in a row.

“Early in the year he was competitive, but he’d make a little mistake here and there,” Vale said. “We haven’t shown him a lot, but we took him to a show a month and a half—two months ago—and at that show he really started to settle and let me ride him a little more, just do some things that are a little more sophisticated to polish the round.

“So just coming in here, I felt that if we didn’t have bad luck we would have a chance to defend our title,” he continued. “Basically as well as he’s been riding, and he’s just naturally a super jumper, I really was hoping not to have bad luck. I didn’t think I needed good luck, but if you have bad luck it’s hard to overcome bad luck.”

The four-round class started on Friday with a top field comprised of juniors, amateurs and professionals aiming to land in the top 25 after the close of round two on Saturday. Those pairs returned Sunday morning to show in front of three judging panels. The top four returned for a fourth round, with their scores from rounds 3 and 4 added together to determine the winner.

The final two rounds were held in the grand prix ring, and while the ring is large, there was a lot to look at since the course was set alongside the course already set for the Vetera XP Vaccines $250,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix that followed the class.

Junior rider Tori Colvin piloted her longtime mount Inclusive to the top after the first two rounds and was leading after this morning’s clean slate third round, so Vale knew he’d have to do something to impress.

“I felt, just the way they scored the other rounds, that maybe the panel favored her horse a touch to mine, so just going into the last round I kind of opened the stride in the gallops, showed a little more pace—just to try and show off and catch their eye a little bit. That was basically it,” Vale said. “I wanted to go a little forward. Last year, they seemed to favor my horse by quite a margin, so I just kind of rode conservatively, and the horse’s jump won the class.

“I didn’t run or anything, but I just wanted to kick it up,” he continued.

Adrienne Iverson of Califon, N.J., took home third-placed honors with Reliance, and Patricia Griffith railed after Akinda bounced a pole in the cups during the first round to complete the top four.

So the million-dollar question (or rather the $150,000 question) is what do Stewart and Vale plan on doing with their big payday? 

“Aaron’s going to pay his bills, and I’m going to take my wife—my wife has probably already spent most of it,” Stewart joked. “Not to mention he’s got a daughter that I’m sure is going to be spending lots of his money.”

Want more action from HITS Saugerties? Check out the gallery from Friday and the winner of the Platinum Performance $250,000 Hunter Prix. Return to later for coverage of the CP Million Grand Prix presented by Wells Fargo.

For in-depth coverage and details on the Stal Hendrix Pre-Green Futurity, don’t miss the September 21 issue of the Chronicle.

Categories: Horse Shows, Hunters

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