Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 17
As Pedro Muylaert set off on his victory gallop aboard Prince Royal Z MFS for his win in the $130,000 CSI*** Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival, there were plenty of cheering supporters and friends calling his name, but there was one notable absence.
“My very, very good friend Chepito,” Muylaert, 30, said quietly. Andres “Chepito” Rodriguez, the individual silver medalist in the 2015 Pan American Games from Venezuela, died last year in a car accident in Wellington, Fla., that also killed amateur rider Sophie Walker. Muylaert credited Chepito with getting him started in the show ring state side after competing mostly in his home country of Brazil.
“He is for me my brother, and I started here with him,” Muylaert said. “This win today was for him, because I’m here because of him. I started with him in the riding and then I came last year and rode with him and now I’m here, and everything is for him now.”
Muylaert has only been riding the 10-year-old stallion Prince Royal Z MFS for a month.
“He’s a very good horse. He jumped in the Olympic Games last year with a rider from Uruguay [Nielsen Van Hoff] and then I got him,” Muylaert explained.
It proved a tough night to log a clear first round over the Richard Jeffery-designed track—the grand prix took place at the stadium at the Global Dressage facility as the hunters have invaded the international ring at the Winter Equestrian Festival across the road for WCHR week. The small space challenged many of the competitors, and only four of the original 44 progressed to the jump-off.
“My plan was not to go so, so fast, because there was not too many in the jump-off,” Muylaert said. “So my plan was just to go clear and fast enough to be top three—I could not imagine that I would be winning.”
Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu logged the first clear round and were first up in the jump-off, settling for second behind Muylaert after the chips fell.
“I mean I tried to go fast! I would love to say I wasn’t trying but I was,” O’Shea said with a laugh when asked if he was just trying to be clear. “I could have been quicker to the second fence, but other than that I think I did what I could do.”
O’Shea has been developing the 10-year-old Machu Picchu since he was a 7-year-old.
“When he was 8 he won a 1.50-meter class in Dublin at a five-star show, and when he was 7 with his old rider he won three grand prixs, so he’s always been really consistent,” O’Shea said. “Then I jumped a grand prix here two or three weeks ago and I had a time fault, and he was ninth, and then I did the last grand prix and he was fifth, so he hasn’t knocked a fence yet this year, so I’m really happy with him.”
Jimmy Torano guided the young up-and-comer Day Dream to third, an impressive feat given Day Dream is a coming 9-year-old and had to contend with a course that was throwing plenty of seasoned horses for a loop.
“I thought it was tough when I walked it. I told Paul when he was the first clear he might be the only clear—it was very difficult early on,” Torano said. “There were a lot of faults throughout the whole course, and as we saw the triple combination was very, very difficult, and I think as the course went on it didn’t get any easier, really. You had to ride from start to finish.
“Even the first jump wasn’t a gimme,” Torano said, and he’s correct—a number of riders either clunked and carried the top rail or even had refusals at the very first vertical on course. “It was really a rider’s course, you had to ride from start to finish. I thought it was very, very tough myself. It’s a small ring, the lighting wasn’t great, there were shadows with the difficult combination with the liverpool, so yeah I thought it was a very tough course myself.”
Torano pulled one rail trying to outrun Muylaert in the jump-off, but he’s pleased with how Day Dream handled the night.
“I can count how many rails he’s had since I’ve had him,” Torano said, who’s been bringing the horse along for three years. “He’s just a very, very careful horse, and I hope for a big future with him.”
Click here for the full results, and check back with The Chronicle of the Horse for more from the Winter Equestrian Festival during World Champion Hunter Week!