Edited Press Release
Reaching its penultimate stop of the 2021 calendar year, the Split Rock Jumping Tour (SRJT) returned to Bruce’s Field for the second year of the Aiken International, this time with an upgraded CSI3* rating. Highlighting Thursday’s competition was the $50,000 Restylane FEI Welcome, where forty-one horse-and-rider combinations represented seven nations across Peter Holmes’ track. It was ultimately the United States’ Aaron Vale with Don Stewart and Sleepy P Ranch’s Major (Carmargue x A’Khan Z) who were victorious, following an exciting jump-off competition.
A total of 15 athletes successfully answered all of the questions asked on course, making the jump-off portion a competitive race against the clock. Tracy Fenney (USA), who would go on to contest the jump-off with two of her horses, set the true pace of the class as the third to go, clocking in a time of 43.38 aboard MTM Dolce Vita. Not long after, however, Brooke Kemper (USA) and her steady partner Arpeggi shaved nearly a second off of Fenney’s time and held the lead for the following six athletes. It wasn’t until Fenney returned on her second mount, MTM Apple, that Kemper’s time was overtaken as the pair clocked in at 40.09 seconds. Will Simpson (USA) would enter the ring second to last with Whoop de Doo to challenge Fenney’s new leading time, but he fell just short on 41.88 to slide behind into second place.
Vale was last to go, drawing the most sought-after position in a jump-off. Having watched the rounds of all the competitors before him, Vale knew the exact track to take and relied on his horse’s naturally quick pace to cross the timers at 39.65, saving the best for last. Fenney would settle for second place with MTM Apple and fifth with MTM Dolce Vita while Simpson finished in third, followed by Kemper in fourth. Vale returns to the Aiken International having dominated the tour stop in 2020, taking a total of 10 wins throughout the week of competition including last year’s FEI Welcome with Elusive.
“It was a lovely course again today and the footing is really good so the horses are all jumping so well here. With 15 clear, it was a fast jump-off. I went fast yesterday, but was saving a bit of speed for today and Major was once again a good boy for me. I only jumped about two fences in the warm-up so I watched nearly everyone before me go, including Tracy. We’ve competed against each other in a lot of jump-offs, so I know my horse has a little bit more foot speed than hers. I knew if I could get the same amount of strides as her horse from fence two to three, I could catch her time the rest of the way with Major’s foot speed,” Vale commented.