Kevin Mealiff and Viper Vrombautshoeve Z Top $50,000 Ox Ridge Grand Prix
The penultimate day of the 88th Annual Ox Ridge Charity Horse Show, presented by the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund, featured some of the region’s most talented horse-and-rider combinations, each taking to the ring for a shot at the top prize in the highlight class of the week, the $50,000 Ox Ridge Grand Prix, also presented by the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund.
Besting a large 15-horse jump-off comprised of young riders and veterans from five nations, Ireland’s Kevin Mealiff and BKS Horse Farms LLC’s Viper Vrombautshoeve Z proved to be the best performers of the night, leading the victory gallop and earning The Michael S. Griffin Memorial Grand Prix Trophy, donated by McLain Ward, as the fastest of only two double-clean pairs out of the initial field.
Serving as the successful trailblazers for the event, Mattias Tromp and Manhattan logged the first clear trip of the afternoon as the second pair over designer Philip DeVita’s 14-fence first round track, leaving all the fences upright within the 76-second time allowed. Forcing a jump-off, Mealiff and Iliano Van D’Abelendreef subsequently added their names to the short course list with FEI World Equestrian Games team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht of the U.S. and Pembroke immediately following suit.
As the class progressed, foot-perfect rounds proved to be the norm, with 12 more partnerships successfully finishing the track without faults. Aboard their respective mounts, Stephanie Gallucc, Alexandra Pielet, Colin Savaria, Lauren Fischer, Mark Bluman, Sydney Shulman, McLain Ward, Peter Leone, and Jazz Johnson Merton each turned in eligible rides with no penalties.
With the first phase of the contest finished, 15 pairs were slated to return for the tiebreaker after clean initial trips, riding in the reverse order in which they qualified. Whittled down to eight efforts, the pattern saw its first double-clear effort of the class completed by Pielet in the irons aboard Helene VE, setting the pace to beat in 36.493 seconds as the fifth duo in the start list. Chasing down the frontrunners, following challengers put the pressure on, but with only a handful left to ride Pielet and Helene VE still sat atop the leaderboard. Bluman with the ride on Cartouche and Shulman with Villamoura each bettered the leading pair’s time with marks of 35.186 seconds and 34.292 seconds, respectively, but both lowered a single fence to keep them out of contention for the title.
The third-to-last to tackle the track, Mealiff and Viper Vrombautshoeve Z finally added another double-clean performance to the roster, crossing the finish line in 36.314 seconds, successful at ousting the top pair by mere milliseconds. As the last to go, Johnson Merton and Corona SB were the last obstacle standing in the way of the Irish team’s victory, but Mealiff’s champion status was secured when the final exhibitors dropped a rail, solidifying Mealiff and Viper Vrombautshoeve Z as the winner of the $50,000 Ox Ridge Grand Prix.
Pielet and Co-Pielet LLC’s Helene VE captured second place overall as only the second duo to complete two fault-free trips, and Shulman and Jill Shulman’s Villamoura rounded out the podium spots in third as the fastest of the four-faulters.