The premier class of the first weekend of the Winter Spectacular circuit at the World Equestrian Center gave exhibitors 75,000 reasons to compete in the Grand Arena on Saturday afternoon.

The $75,000 Added 1.5 meter Grand Prix brought 30 competitors who tackled the course, with five exhibitors making a clean first round to return for the jump off. Aaron Vale set the tone early with his first of three mounts in the class aboard Elusive.

“When I saw the order came out yesterday, I was a little disappointed because he is my best horse. It’s not an advantage to go first. But in spite of it, it worked all out for us. My plan was to just tried to go as fast as he could go and hopefully leave the fences up, and everything up really nice” Aaron said.

“He was running really fast and was really jumping today - he didn’t want to touch a fence. Some courses suit your horse better than others. I thought it was a pretty good track for him suitability-wise. We hoped to have a little luck and we didn’t have any bad luck.”

In talking about the 12 year old gelding, Aaron said: “Elusive is like a pet. My wife has shown him, I’ve shown him, and he’s won a bunch for both of us. I bought him early in his six year old year, so we’ve had him six years now. The plan is for my daughter to inherit him one day when she’s ready. She’s seven and coming up. He’s a special horse for our family.

“Our other horse, Major, is a special horse and I’ve had a lot of success with him the past few years. He seems to like this arena, so he’ll be back here next week.”

Aaron was excited to win the first Grand Prix at WEC Ocala, but even more excited to show at the new facility. “I thought to myself, no matter what other success I have, I can say that I won the first Grand Prix here. Sharm Wordley and Santiago Lambre and some of the others are pretty fast riders, so it means a lot,” he said.

“I’ve shown in Ocala for 30 some years now, and been a permanent resident for about 15 years. I can’t believe they built this beautiful facility for us to show our horses at! I’m 52 years old and I’ve never dreamt about a horse show before, but every day I’m here I’ve got a smile on my face, I go home at night from here and I dream about it all night. It’s got to be the premier facility in the world.”

Earlier on Saturday, the $7,500 Added Grand Prix saw Christina Kelly and Kingdom take the win. The duo were one of five horses and riders to take the first round clean. Christina and Kingdom jumped the jump off round in 42.22 seconds, which couldn’t be caught.

“This was my first class back with him,” Christina said. “I sold him and he just came back to me, so I’ve been doing more and more with him to bring him back. He’s an Irish Sport Horse, so he’s a bit temperamental. He has to go his way, so if you do that, then he’s happy.”

Christina noted that she didn’t have a lot of strategy in her rounds. “Really I just wanted to go double clear,” she said.

The first weekend of the Winter Spectacular concludes on Sunday, but the circuit will continue for 12 weeks, culminating with a finale weekend at the end of March. To learn more about the Winter Spectacular, see show results and more, please visit worldequestriancenter.com or horseshowing.com.