Ocala, Florida, USA – February 12, 2023 – Forty of the world’s best athletes closed week VI of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series early this morning in the WEC Stadium. An even ten nations were represented in the class, and all were determined to gallop away with the $100,000 Budweiser Grand Prix victory, but it was Aaron Vale (USA) who saved the best for last and found a blistering fast time aboard Thinkslikeahorse’s Elusive (Rodrigoo x Alouette) to go two-for-two in the WEC Stadium.
FEI Level III course designer Joey Rycroft (CAN) set the imposing tracks for the class where only eight managed to keep all the rails up and stay under the time allowed to qualify for the jump-off.
“The course was plenty big. The time allowed was shorter than it has been so you had to press a bit. When you have to press for time, it makes the tricky elements that much harder. If they give you all day to jump around, everyone could go clear, but when you add pressure, that’s when the rails start to come down. Eight is a lovely number for the jump-off and if you made it clear you’re going home with a little something,” said Vale.
Pathfinder Sharn Wordley (NZL) and Fernando Cardenas Jr.’s Valentine Car (Son of Juan Car x Sofia Car) were the first pair to return for the short course. Wordley and the 14-year-old Warmblood gelding found a fast track in 44.681 seconds to set the pace.
Peter Petschenig (AUT) and Daniel Geitner (USA) followed, but had a pair of rails each along the way.
Super fan Samantha Schaefer (USA) entered the arena next, sporting an Eagles jersey under her show coat in anticipation of tonight’s Super Bowl. The jersey brought some luck, as Schaefer and Bonne Chance LLC’s James Bond HX found a clean track in 46.615 seconds.
Tracy Fenney (USA) and fan favorite MTM Apple (Favorit Ask x Kong’s Whopsie) followed. Fenney and the 12-year-old Danish Warmblood mare raced around the jump-off track, finding each fence on an open gallop to stop the clock at 42.047 seconds to take the lead.
Fenney’s stablemate Dorothy Douglas (USA) and Davenport Farms’ MTM Pablo were the next duo to attempt Rycroft’s short course finding a clean ride in 47.653 seconds.
Peter Petschenig (AUT) returned to the WEC Stadium aboard his second mount It’s The Senator 111. The pair dashed around the track taking one rail in the process in 46.987 seconds.
Aaron Vale (USA) was the last competitor to return for the jump-off. Earlier during the week, Vale had secured first and second place in the $24,000 C. Jarvis Insurance Welcome Prix, and on Sunday he hoped to add to that double victory.
“It’s always an advantage to go last in the jump-off. You get to see what’s on the table. With Peter Petschenig having two, I was able to watch three or four from the stands to get an idea of the track. I got on and watched Apple from the ingate. She was pretty quick, but this course seemed to be set up for my horse,” said Vale.
At the sound of the tone, Vale and Elusive started on a strong gallop to fence one, “I thought I might do the ten from one to two, because my horse is a bit smaller, and Tracy Fenney (USA) and a few others got the nine, but we ended up finding the nine on a nice gallop. I felt like I was pretty tight back to the skinny, then I think I was one stride more to the next, but hugged the pond as much as I could to the double combination. I was hoping to find it a bit more open, but I had to check and wait. He just jumped his eyeballs out through that double, then I ran up to the oxer on the rail. To the last jump I heard my fans and Mike Connors yelling from the rail to go, and I wasn’t sure if I could leave out that last stride, but I said screw it, kicked and he took off.”
The pair flew through the finish stopping the clock at 41.318 seconds to steal the victory.
Vale spoke about the careful gelding, “When he’s operating and you’re going against the clock, he gets a little freaky kicking out that hind end. Even in the first round, something woke him up and he was putting that extra effort in a few places. When he has that feeling, you know it’s going to be a good day.”
An additional $5,000 was awarded to the fastest four-faulter of the $100,000 Budweiser Grand Prix. Santiago Lambre (BRA) and J’Adore Van Het Klinkhof received the award with an incredibly fast time of 80.031 seconds with one down.
Richard Spooner received the $5,000 ‘Luck of the Draw’ award.
Final Results – $100,000 Budweiser Grand Prix
1) Aaron Vale (USA) & Elusive, Thinkslikeahorse: 0 / 0 – 41.318
2) Tracy Fenney (USA) & MTM Apple, MTM Farm: 0 / 0 – 42.047
3) Sharn Wordley (NZL) & Valentine Car, Fernando Cardenas Jr.: 0 / 0 – 44.681
4) Samantha Schaefer (USA) & James Bond HX, Bonne Chance LLC: 0 / 0 – 46.615
5) Dorothy Douglas (USA) & MTM Pablo, Davenport Farms: 0 / 0 – 47.653
6) Peter Petschenig (AUT) & It’s The Senator 111, Peter Petschenig: 0 / 4 – 46.987
7) Peter Petschenig (AUT) & Ennebel Van Het Posthuijs, Peter Petschenig: 0 / 8 – 43.920
8) Daniel Geitner (USA) & Fazous , Oak Ledge Farm: 0 / 8 – 45.522
9) Santiago Lambre (BRA) & J’Adore Van Het Klinkho, Santiago Lambre: 4 – 80.031
10) Rowan Willis (AUS) & Wellington Grey Goose, Rowan Willis: 4 – 80.623
Source: Press Release from World Equestrian Center
Photos: © WEC – Andrew Ryback Photography