Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – June 12, 2021 – Aaron Vale (USA) and Elusive jumped clear and raced to a blue ribbon in the $137,000 Cleghorn Golf and Sports Club Grand Prix CSI 3* with an impressive jump-off time of 37.426 seconds under the lights at Tryon International Equestrian Center’s USEF Heritage Tryon Spring 6/Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Charity Show.
Elusive lived up to the definition of his name tonight, proving he was “difficult to catch” with an astonishingly fast time and clear round. The Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) course tested 30 riders with his first round design with 11 pairs jumping clean and qualifying for the eight-fence jump-off round. Vale (USA) and his 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Rodrigoo x Capfucino) took the win. “The course was, I thought, it was plenty hard,” Vale admitted, “There were probably a couple more in the jump-off than Michel wanted, but it made for a great jump-off and great sport.”
Pepita Con Spita, a 2011 Westphalian mare (Con Spirit 7 x Come On) owned by Hays Investment Corp. and ridden by Hunter Holloway (USA), snagged the reserve ribbon with a time of 37.92 seconds.
Third place honors were awarded to Tracy Fenney (USA) on MTM Apple, the 2011 Danish Warmblood mare (Favorit Ask x Willemoes) owned by MTM Farm.
Aaron Vale and his mount have had quite the successful week during the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club Charity One Show, winning the $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 3* on Thursday. He wanted Elusive to “feel fresh for Saturday” after his big win, and this proved to be the case, as Vale pulled out all the stops in the competitive 11-horse jump-off. He revealed:
“Elusive, he’s not really big but he’s a good turner, he’s very honest, you know. If I turn and get his eye on the jump, he says okay. He never questions anything, so I can really ask him to do whatever I want. I was a little conservative to the second jump. I just really didn’t want to have one down early. There’s a lot in the jump-off. Normally I might’ve left one stride out there, but, I mean, I was really fast back to the liverpool and down to the combination. I was way inside everybody’s tracks to the wall. And then, I ran fast to the last. There was a nice one there, it was fast speed wise but it wasn’t a chance, it was in balance for him. Then I had to sit and watch a bunch of them go. It was a long wait, but we got there!”
Vale walked out of the second round with a smile, knowing he was in the running for his first Saturday Night Lights win. After the last horse cleared the final jump-off fence, his win was secured, and his excitement radiated across the stadium. “Well, it was awesome! I’ve won a couple of the classes during the daytime here in the FEI stuff, but I’ve never won Saturday Night so quite a thrilling victory and I’m thrilled to get it done!” He galloped his victory lap, blue ribbon flying in the wind, and proudly leapt to the top of the podium.
The winning pair stunned the crowd with their quick rollbacks and fast pace, leaving the competition in the dust, but this superstar pairing would not have been possible without the encouragement from Vale’s wife. “We bought him as a six year old. I competed him as a six and seven year old and handed him over to my wife,” Vale explained. Not long after he handed Elusive over, however, his wife encouraged him to try and enter Grand Prix classes with the gelding.
“Not this year but last year, you know, there was a lot of money in Florida, in Ocala, she said, ‘You know, you really ought to try Elusive in the Grand Prixs.’ Because he’s a small horse, I always said, ‘Well, I’m too big for him, you know.’ She said, ‘Well, he’s done everything you’ve asked of him so you really ought to try him in those classes and see if he can do it!’ So, he’s been mine ever since. He’s hers! But she hasn’t competed him since then. He’s just an awesome horse. Hopefully one day, my daughter, she’s seven and showing a pony in the .80m classes right now, and hopefully he’ll still have a little left in the tank when she’s a little bit older. She’ll get to show him too! He’s a lifer at our house; he’s not going anywhere!”
As part of the 93rd Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Charity One Horse Show, Vale was presented with the Roger and Jennifer Smith Green River Farm Perpetual Trophy as the show’s grand prix champion. Outside of the Tryon Stadium, Aaron Vale has had “an excellent week,” he admitted with a grin. He won the Trip of the Day award, presented by Randi and Kelly Goulding on Wednesday aboard Jagerbomb for his score of 85 in the Green Hunter 3’9 Division. Jagerbomb and Vale also received the inaugural Ernst “Pete” Mahler Perpetual Trophy and the title of Grand Green Hunter Champion. He will be leaving this week with awards to spare and will be headed back home to Florida where he and his horses will relax for four weeks before coming back to Tryon International Equestrian Center for Tryon Summer 5 and 6.
Final Results – $137,000 Cleghorn Gun Club Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Aaron Vale (USA) & Elusive – 0 / 0 – 37.426
2) Hunter Holloway (USA) & Pepita Con Spita – 0 / 0 – 37.92
3) Tracy Fenney (USA) & MTM Apple – 0 / 0 – 39.449
Source: Press Release by Allie Hay for TIEC – Tryon International Equestrian Center
Photos: © TIEC – Shannon Brinkman Photography