If you’re the first to qualify for a grand prix jump-off, you’ve got to weigh your options. Get too gung-ho and you risk a rail. But if you go for a careful clear, there’s a good chance someone will snatch the victory away from you. If you’re later in the order you can make a decision based on how the other rides are going, but as first up, you don’t have that luxury.
Aaron Vale is no stranger to making that call, having won four of the feature grand prix classes at the World Equestrian Center Ocala’s Winter Spectacular series and another three down the road at HITS Ocala (Florida) this season. But Candro Van De Zuuthoeve hadn’t made it to the winner’s circle yet, so Vale decided the gamble of going for broke was worth taking.
He and the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve—Walach Van De Zuuthoeve, Sir Lui) owned by Taylor Granat set a blistering pace in the $200,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix to stop the timers at 41.20 seconds. Only one horse was faster—Vale’s other mount Major—but that horse pulled a rail, ensuring Candro Van De Zuuthoeve’s victory on March 27 to close out WEC’s inaugural Florida winter circuit.
Watch Vale’s winning ride, courtesy of WEC Ocala and ClipMyHorse.TV: