Lexington, Kentucky – May 15, 2022 – On the final day of the first week of competition at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show series, promising young talent converged in the famed Rolex Arena to vie for the win in $15,000 Under 25 Grand Prix. A total of 24 athletes completed the track to close out week one of competition. In the end, it was Caroline Mawhinney (USA) aboard her very own, Stella Levista, to dominate the field. Lexi Ray (CAN) and Lukaku VD Bisschop finished in second place, while Caitlyn Connors (USA) and Falcon De Hus Z rounded out the podium.
The carefully built course, designed by Oscar Soberon, tested the young athletes and their ability to think quickly. Soberon’s 13-obstacle first round track presented intricate questions, requiring riders to shave precious time off the clock in the turns, while keeping their horses careful and balanced to the base in the related lines. Nine young athletes rose to the occasion, jumping a clear first round and progressing to the jump-off where they were challenged with winding turns and a long gallop to the final jump. Only four horse-and-athlete combinations jumped a fault-free second round.
Ultimately, it was Mawhinney (USA) and Stella Levista that electrified the Rolex Arena. The 14-year-old Hanoverian mare jumped the tricky track with ease, answering all of the questions in lightning speed. Returning for the 8-effort jump-off, the duo jumped without penalty, crossing the finish line in a blazing fast time of 43.896 seconds. The pair proved their power walking into the ring with confidence and topping their performance from the Kentucky Spring Horse Show in 2021, where they captured their very first U25 Grand Prix win together.
Posting a fault free jump-off round to take the second place finish was Ray and her own Lukaku VD Bisschop. As the last to go in the jump-off, the pair attempted to move themselves into the top spot. However, they were not quite quick enough to do so, notching 46.709 seconds on the clock. The 11-year-old bay BWP gelding jumped in textbook form, carrying Ray to a clear round over the jumps to secure their second place position.
Rounding out the podium was Caitlyn Connors (USA) aboard Falcon De Hus Z, owned by Five Henry Stables. Connors and the 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding began their partnership this winter at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. The pair returned for the jump-off with an impressive fault free round to snatch the third place spot with a time of 48.046 seconds, adding a fantastic accomplishment to their record.
The Kentucky Spring Horse Show Series will continue on Wednesday, May 19, featuring the $37,000 Kentucky Spring Classic 1.45m as well as the $140,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI3* presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.
From The Winners Circle
On Stella Vista and her winning ride:
“She’s truly the best. Going in not that many had gone clear, I think only one and it wasn’t very quick. So for me it was deciding whether to go inside of the tree to jump three or to go around it. She is naturally so fast across the ground so I decided to go around to give her a nice line and let her do her thing.”
On being in Kentucky:
“It is such a nice show. All of the horses love it, the weather is great, and the stalls are so nice. It is great to be back here for the spring series.”
On the future with Stella Vista:
“We plan to take her to Tryon, South Carolina, Michigan, and Canada at the end of the summer. I really would love to do the junior team [NAYC competition] with her at Michigan. That is definitely a big goal of mine.”
Final Results – $15,000 Under 25 Grand Prix
1) Caroline Mawhinney (USA) & Stella Levista – 0 / 0 – 43.9
2) Lexi Ray (CAN) & Lukaku VD Bisschop – 0 / 0 – 46.71
3) Caitlyn Connors (USA) & Falcon de Hus Z – 0 / 0 – 48.05
Source: Press Release by Bailey Beal / Phelps Media Group for Kentucky Horse Shows
Photos: © Shawn McMillen Photography