The Lugano Diamonds Split Rock Jumping Tour (SRJT) anticipated an exciting return to the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, as the last stop of 2022 to welcome the pinnacle of international horses and riders to the Split Rock Fort Worth CSI4*-W. Thursday’s competition was highlighted by the $75,000 Lugano Diamonds 1.50m FEI Welcome, in which Aaron Vale (USA) and Thinkslikeahorse’s Prescott (Lordanos x BB Carvallo) saved the best for last and emerged victorious from a riveting jump-off competition.

Aaron Vale and Prescott. (Winslow Photography)

Thursday night’s feature event brought an opening field of riders from 11 nations who tackled the 15-effort first-round track set by Anderson Lima (BRA) at the 1.50m height. The Will Rogers Memorial Center arena added its own flare to an already technical course, with a difficult first line and constricting time-allowed, which ultimately enabled nine horse-and-rider combinations to come out fault-free.

The first two pairs to enter the arena for the tiebreaker faced challenges over the shortened course, which consisted of a tight inside turn to the SRJT combination and a long gallop down the last line to a tall vertical. It wasn’t until Natalie Dean (USA) and Acota M entered the arena that the crowd saw a double-clear round. The pair crossed the timers in a prompt time of 35.78 seconds. Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) and Pia Contra took their shot at the night’s prize next, but were not fast enough, ending their jump-off in 36.28 seconds. Dean didn’t hold her lead for long, as Vale and his first ride of the night, Elusive, landed in a time of 35.43 seconds. Chris Sorensen (CAN) and Chinox continued to chip away at the leading time and unseated Vale, but they too quickly lost the top spot as Lillie Keenan (USA) and Queensland E took their try at the short course and finished over the last vertical in 34.43 seconds. Vale and Prescott, the last pair to compete, emerged victorious after speeding to a time of 33.70 seconds. In the end, Keenan would settle for second on the podium and Sorensen for third.

“In the first line, I left a stride out, doing one less than everybody else, so I kind of had a little bit of a lead from the get-go. Then I just had to stay on the pace from there and not make a mistake. I got a bit lucky with a rub at the Longines oxer, but it stayed up and he jumped the rest of them super,” Vale concluded.

Thrilling competition will continue through the weekend, with the main feature event taking place on Saturday, December 17, with the $250,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth CSI4*-W, presented by Lugano Diamonds.

Full results here.