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Aaron Vale and Bonzini S

Aaron Vale and Bonzini S

Filip De Wandel and Gentley

Martien Van Der Hoeven and Zerro Leone

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Aaron Vale Steals the Show with Win in $25,000 CWD Welcome Stake at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival

Written by: Taylor Renner
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2016-07-15

Traverse City, Mich. – July 15, 2016 – The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) capped off on Friday with the $25,000 CWD Welcome Stake, which saw 34 horses and riders battle it out for the coveted prize money. Wednesday's 1.40m Jumpers winner, Aaron Vale, and Thinkslikeahorse's Bonzini S came out on top to secure Vale's second win of the week at the Flintfields Horse Park.
"Bonzini S is a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding," said Vale. "He's under mileage; he's more like an 8-year-old because he's still kind of developing and he hasn't shown a whole lot. He's got a big jump to him, but he's still kind of learning the ropes — how to turn and shorten. He's coming along though. He's won some nice classes and got another feather in his cap today!"

Course designer Thomas Hern Jr. built a large first round track of 13 obstacles with a tight time allowed of 80 seconds. Only eight of the original starting field produced faultless efforts in the first round to advance on to the short course. The jump-off round was even more of a challenge with multiple tight rollbacks that caused faults for many exhibitors in a time allowed of 50 seconds.
Belgium's Filip De Wandel of Five Way Farm and his own Gentley were the early clear pathfinders in the jump-off as third in the order-of-go. They stopped the clock in 49.390 seconds. Four horse and rider combinations followed and attempted to jump clear and catch Wandel's time but none were able to successfully pull the difficult feat off. Augusta Pines Farm's Zerro Leone with Martien Van Der Hoeven in the irons were seventh to go and finished with all of the jumps up but with a single time fault in 50.821 seconds, which put him into second place.
It was all left up to the last contender of Friday evening's $25,000 CWD Welcome Stake: Vale and Bonzini S. The pair entered the Grand Prix Ring and stole the show with a fast and faultless performance in 46.095 seconds — surpassing Wandel's time by three seconds to take the lead and knock Wandel into second and Van Der Hoeven into third.
"I loved the first round!" said Vale. "You had kind of a nice tour; it took you all the way around the ring with a couple of changes of direction. I thought the fences were evenly spread out. The time allowed was a little bit short, but he gave you different ways to make the time allowed, which I think is fair — each person can ride their own horse. So I thought that was wonderful.
"The jump-off track was a little bit twisty turn-y," continued Vale. "Especially when you have multiple clean, it doesn't lend itself to a fast jump-off where the anticipation builds because you're turning and rails are falling down. If you make a mistake in these tight turns, you have a pole or a stop, and we had a couple of those going down. It was kind of a 'hold your breath' jump-off rather than a 'yeah go get it and let your adrenaline flow and have fun' kind of jump-off. I was lucky to go last and kind of know what I had to beat. I watched most of them, and I saw Filip's clear round. He wasn't super fast but he rode a smart round. I had a rub so he was close to winning it! It wasn't too hard to get inside his time, but again, with those tight turns and severe angles, it's a bit of a risk on a track like that to go for time."
Wandel's father, Antoine de Wandel, bred Gentley, a now 10-year-old Belgium Warmblood gelding, in Belgium and the two have had great success thus far including winning the $30,000 Nutrena Grand Prix earlier this year at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
"Throughout the last year [Gentley's] been very good and I was very pleased with him again today," said Wandel. "I've had him since he was born and I broke him myself at the age of 3 so we have a really great partnership together."
Of Friday's competition, Wandel said, "I thought it was a good course. There were definitely a few questions, like the liver pool and the combination at the end — those definitely got a few people. You had to rush around for the time, I think. For me, the course rode fine. It wasn't the easiest, but it was not too high. It was a good course.
"The jump-off was quite interesting," continued Wandel. "Normally there are one or two rollbacks, but I think there were almost four today. It was definitely hard to get a good rhythm. We kept having to turn back, pick it up again and then turn. One rollback I didn't really make it though. I just went around and that's probably where I lost it but for sure I wanted to stay clear, that was important to me today. I had Aaron Vale behind me and I knew he was going to be very fast. I didn't really try to chase him or think too much about him coming behind me because that's when I make mistakes."
With Friday's top placings under their belt, Vale and Wandel are looking forward to riding both Bonzini S and Gentley in Sunday's $50,000 Grand Prix of Michigan at GLEF.
"Last week was the first week I was here," said Wandel. "I like it. I think it's a nice show. I like the temperature here. It is a lot less humid, and I like that a lot. It's a very nice show to be at. I think it's a very horse friendly set up; I really like it. I enjoy being here. I for sure will come back."
Feature jumper events for Week Two in the Grand Prix Ring include the $7,500 NAL Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic on Saturday, July 16, and the highlight event of the week on Sunday, July 17: the $50,000 Grand Prix of Michigan, presented by Peninsula Capital Management and Craig Rosenberg.
Horses are not the only form of entertainment lined up for this year's Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. The festival has teamed up with top musicians and entertainers from around the country to offer fun-filled evenings for this year's concert and dinner series.
To kick-off Summer Evenings at Flintfields, Porterhouse Presents hosted the Dirty Bourbon River Show's unique New Orleans Funk, Jazz and Americana sounds on Friday evening. The event was sponsored by East West Equine Sports Medicine, and featured North Peak Brewing Company and Black Star Farms products. The night kicked off at 6 p.m. with unique and entertaining music as well as New Orleans and Cajun food that was enjoyed by all.
Week Two of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival runs through July 17 at the Flintfields Horse Park and will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the next three weeks throughout the first series of competition, which runs July 6–31.
The second week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival has completely sold out of stabling space with limited spots remaining for Week Three, July 20–24. Act now to reserve stabling spots for August, and do not miss out on the chance to compete during the all-new FEI Great Lakes Equestrian Festival series in August.
Series Two kicks off on August 10 and runs through August 28 featuring three weeks of hunter and jumper competition with a FEI CSI2* rating Week Five and Six and a FEI CSI3* rating during Week Seven culminating in the $100,000 Grand Traverse Grand Prix on Sunday, August 28.
The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival is set on 88 beautiful acres and showcases five world-class competition rings in addition to spacious schooling rings. The property features don't stop there as the park offers convenient on-site campgrounds and weekly nights of entertainment for a truly unique attendee experience.
For more information, please visit

Results: $25,000 CWD Welcome Stake



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