There’s having an impressive back end – and then there’s the “freaky” kick-back of Elusive, who was in full flight with Aaron Vale to take the $100,000 Budweiser Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center, Florida.
Home rider Aaron and Thinkslikeahorse’s 14-year-old KWPN gelding were last of eight to go in the jump-off on Sunday (12 February), and they saved the best for last, finishing clear over half a second ahead of MTM Apple and Tracy Fenney.
“It’s always an advantage to go last in the jump-off,” Aaron said. “You get to see what’s on the table. 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 in-gate. She was pretty quick, but this course seemed to be set up for my horse.”
Aaron and Elusive had pedal to the metal from the off.
“I thought I might do the ten [strides] from one to two, because my horse is a bit smaller, and Tracy Fenney and a few others got the nine, but we ended up finding the nine on a nice gallop,” Aaron said. “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.”
Aaron and Elusive stopped the clock at 41.318 seconds to steal the win.
“When he’s operating and you’re going against the clock, he gets a little freaky kicking out that hind end,” Aaron said. “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.”
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.