Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – June 10, 2021 – Aaron Vale (USA) continued his winning ways Thursday at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC), claiming the $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 3* aboard Elusive, after stopping the jump-off timers at 34.506 seconds.
Only eight pairs returned to the jump-off course after 38 entries attempted the first-round track set by Michel Vaillancourt (CAN). Vale was first to tour the short course, and Elusive’s trailblazing time proved to be just that as all remaining entries were unable to upset their lead. Vale also piloted Major, the 2007 Danish Warmblood (Carmargue x Pinot) owned by Don Stewart, to sixth place, dropping one rail and finishing in a time of 36.67 seconds. Aboard the Thinks Like a Horse entry and 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Rodrigoo x Capfucino), Vale navigated the course which seemed to get trickier as it went, he thought:
Michel [Vaillancourt] is a brilliant designer. The course was tricky and seemed to get a little harder at the end as there were maybe more rails towards the end of the course from what I saw. It was just hard enough with eight clear, so if you went clear you were getting a nice check,” Vale assessed. “It was an exciting jump-off. That’d be the third or fourth class that he’s won this year going first in the jump-off! I didn’t take all the chances, I left the door open just a little, to where one or two were quicker than me, but they had one [rail] down.”
The remainder of the podium belonged to Canada: Erynn Ballard (CAN) tripped the timers just behind Vale in 34.553 for reserve aboard Gakhir, the 2011 Dutch Warmblood stallion (Spartacus x Indorado) owned by Ilan Ferder and Esperanza Imports.
Sam Walker (CAN) dashed to third after his 36.507 second, clear performance with Hermelien VD Hooghoeve, the 2007 Belgian Warmblood mare (Otangelo x Thunder van de Zuuthoeve) owned by Evergate Stables LLC.
Despite an untouchable time, Vale acknowledged that he didn’t want to put the medal to the metal today ahead of the ultimate goal, Saturday’s $137,000 Cleghorn Golf & Sports Club Grand Prix CSI 3*. “I want to save a little tread on the tires! He’s a crafty horse and it was just quick enough to put the pressure on the others, and they either didn’t catch us or they had the one down. He [Elusive] will have an easy day tomorrow so he’ll feel fresh for Saturday.”
Elusive was actually borrowed from Vale’s wife, Mallory, to test his talent, but she hasn’t gotten her horse back since he started winning at the higher levels, Aaron revealed. “My wife showed him for a few years in the high amateurs, with a decent amount of success. About a year and a half ago she said I should try him in some bigger classes, but I [thought] I was too big for him because he’s not a very big horse,” Vale admitted.
“As more prize money became available, she said, ‘You have to try it and see if he can do it!’ And she hasn’t gotten him back since! He’s been a wonderful horse for us, and he’s having a good go. That’s probably his fifth or sixth FEI class win this year,” Vale reflected. “[Being here at] Tryon is awesome. We love it! The weather’s been quite good so far and we’re having a wonderful show, and we’re enjoying it a lot,” he concluded.
Final Results – $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 3*
1) Aaron Vale (USA) & Elusive – 0 / 0 – 34.506
2) Erynn Ballard (CAN) & Gakhir – 0 / 0 – 34.553
3) Sam Walker (CAN) & Hermeline vd Hooghoeve – 0 / 0 – 36.507
Source: Press Release by Sarah Madden for TIEC – Tryon International Equestrian Center
Photos: © TIEC – Shannon Brinkman Photography