June 10—Upperville, Va.
While several of the six horse-and-rider teams in the jump-off round came close, no one could beat Admiral Clover and Aaron Vale’s round of 42.38 seconds on the grass field at the $75,000 Upperville Jumper Classic at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show.
Course designer Alan Wade's first round whittled the field from 26 to six horses. First to return, Victoria Colvin, 15, and Monsieur du Reverdy made the jump-off course look easy with a time of 43.7 seconds, but the next few horses couldn't catch them. They remained in the lead until Vale swept it away.
“[Admiral Clover] just kind of does his job; he doesn’t show off,” Vale said. “He’s a super horse at the 1.40-meter; he’s a great horse at the 1.45 meter. We get a little bigger, and he just keeps doing it.”
After Admiral Clover, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Clover Brigade—Aine Diamon, Diamond Lad), became the new leader, local hero Alison Robitaille and Cover Girl put in their best effort, but their time of 42.68 seconds couldn’t catch Vale. Robitaille ended second, pushing Colvin to third.
“The plan was just go,” Vale, 43, said, adding that the horse's slightly smaller stride made them push to be faster than the longer-strided competition.
The second line took eight strides for Admiral Clover in the first round, but he managed it in seven in the jump-off. “Alison actually got a six there with that big, long-strided horse. I thought she had us right there," he said.
For winning the grand prix, Vale took home a $22,500 check as well as a custom Antares saddle and a golf cart. This was his third time winning Upperville's feature event, most recently winning in 2010 with Paparazzi 10. This year he and Admiral Clover won the $25,000 Upperville Welcome Stakes as well. Although Virginia is a long way from his farm in Ocala, Fla., Vale makes a point to visit the show every year.
“It’s the oldest horse show in America. The hospitality, the special things they do—it’s a classy show,” he said. “It’s a long drive for us, but I like to make an effort to come."
Vale has only had the ride on Admiral Clover for about six weeks. The gelding spent the winter showing at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), then owner Carmen Rojas sent him to Vale to sell.
“The next thing you know, he gets on the truck and comes up,” Vale said. With Vale, the gelding progressed quickly, winning the $25,000 Atlanta Spring Challenge Grand Prix after just a few weeks together.
“He’s a spectacular animal. He gives you every ounce of effort every time. I just ride him. He knows his job," Vale said. "I guess I know mine, but I’m not trying to change him. He just gets better every time. The more we challenge him, the better he gets.”
Vale had not competed Admiral Clover on grass before Upperville, but he handled it well.
In addition to Admiral Clover, Vale also rode Wodka L in the jump-off. One rail, a vertical in the last combination, placed them sixth.
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