Britain’s Ben Maher ruined a family affair for Brazil’s Alvaro de Miranda and his wife Athina Onassis de Miranda, by splitting the pair on the podium for Saturday night’s $500,000 Grand Prix CSI 5* in Wellington, Florida.
Alvaro de Miranda and AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno jumped to an exciting victory, with Maher and Cella second and Athina Onassis third with Camille Z.
Ireland’s Alan Wade designed the course for the grand prix and set a challenging track for the 40 competitors. Ten entries cleared the first round course without fault to advance to the jump-off and three of those completed clear rounds over the short course in the race for the top prize. Alvaro de Miranda and AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno had the fastest round in 43.96 seconds for the win.
Athina Onassis de Miranda was first to go in the jump-off and put in a steady clear round in 54.46 seconds aboard Camille Z. Although she was slower than many of the other riders, her controlled approach paid off when most of the combinations had faults in their attempt to put in the fastest round. The pair’s clear round finished in third.
Ben Maher and Cella were the only other pair to complete a clear round in the jump-off and briefly held the lead with their time of 44.88 seconds, but Bogeno and de Miranda soon took over.
Kent Farrington (USA) and Blue Angel had the fastest time of the night in 43.52 seconds, but a rail at the last fence left them in fourth. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star were also extremely fast in 44.21 seconds, but had one rail down to finish fifth.
De Miranda’s winning mount, AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno, is a 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Elanville. Flying in the jump-off, one of Bogeno’s shoes actually flew off halfway through the round, but he went on to jump four more fences and blaze through the finish as if nothing ever happened.
This is the first time that de Miranda and his wife have placed at the top of a major class together and they were both thrilled. He was especially happy for the improvement that she has made in her riding this year.
“She trains very hard,” he said. “I think it’s important to see somebody who really wants to do good. Not only buying good horses, but she really wants to give the best that she can always. She’s a hard worker and she loves the horses. She thinks about the horses 99% of her time. When she’s awake, she’s thinking about horses. It’s impossible for her not to succeed because she trains so hard and she loves them.”
Commenting on her success, Onassis de Miranda said: “My horse was great today. It was really good. I knew they were going to come really fast after me. I knew they would be faster, but I was happy to be close.”
Both Alvaro and Athina Onassis de Miranda have been training with legendary former US Chef d’Equipe George Morris. Morris has also been helping Ben Maher with his new mounts for owner Jane Clark. All of the riders gave huge credit to Morris for improving their performances throughout the circuit.
“I would like to thank George Morris very much for all of his support here, especially for Athina,” de Miranda said. “He also has helped me and without his help, I’m sure that it would not be possible to have this great result, especially with my wife.”
Second place finisher Ben Maher had a great finish in the class with Cella despite riding with three fractures in his lower back after a fall in the schooling ring last week. He congratulated his fellow competitors and praised his horse for helping him through the night.
“I’m very happy. Congratulations to everybody here,” Maher said. “It has been a great finish to a great circuit for me. Cella compensated for me tonight. I’ve had a few injuries this week and I wasn’t sure if we were going to ride earlier today. A lot of people have been helping me to make it as comfortable as possible. There were a couple of moments there that if I wasn’t riding Cella, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’m very, very lucky to ride her. I just had to adapt my style a little bit to a lighter seat, which Cella thought was fun, but I didn’t. She’s unbelievable and she really helped me on a couple of jumps.”
Along with the winner’s share of $150,000, de Miranda was presented with the brand new Dennis D. Dammerman Perpetual Trophy. The trophy was created to honor the contributions to equestrian sport of Dennis D. Dammerman, a longtime owner of horses and founding member of the Wellington Equestrian Partners.
This was one of de Miranda’s biggest wins and he had a great experience during his first time competing in Wellington.
“For sure this was one of the most important wins of my life,” he said.
“To have the best riders and the best horses all jump in one class and they’re all very fast. It was important especially to have a good program to keep the horse jumping good for the last week. It’s also my first time here and I was a little bit lost. When I came and I saw the prize list and I saw all the classes, I didn’t know how to fit it. That was what we spoke about with George; a plan about how to get to the last Grand Prix.
“This horse, I have him for a little bit more than one year, and he has been so nice for me. Every time there’s something difficult, I know he’s there and he’s fighting for me and I’m happy to have so many good horses.”