Young equestrian entrepreneurs Rob Gray and Teddy Vlock are always a step ahead. With many aspects of the equestrian world being a major focus of their busy lives, it was a natural fit for the pair to become friends and business partners after meeting while riding. Now, roughly six years later, the Wellington residents trade horses and also own T&R Development, a real estate firm with holdings of more than $50 million, and T&R Restaurant Group, proprietors of Trophy Room, a restaurant and lounge in Wellington.
“We are both social in Wellington, network a lot, and like to be involved with the community,” says Gray, 28, who was raised within an equestrian family in Toronto. He honed his skills in land development with Wellington real estate and in hospitality while creating The Gallery, a pop-up nightlife venue after Saturday Nights Lights, a regular grand prix event held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center during the annual Winter Equestrian Festival.
Vlock, himself a competitive and internationally ranked show jumper, grew up in Branford, Connecticut, and is currently studying psychology at Yale University. During the school year, he travels between Connecticut and Castle Point Farm, his family’s five-acre estate and stables in Wellington. He is a member of the well-known Pritzker family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family,” says Vlock, 22. “We are diverse in our ideas, but I am the youngest of four and watched my sisters do things. My parents trusted me, and they believed that Rob and I would be successful because we have a solid plan for growth and love what we do.”
Some of Vlock and Gray’s successes have been in real estate development at Mallet Hill, where they have worked with blue chip equestrian personalities such as the Jobs family. They also have clients at Palm Beach Point East (such as singer Billy Joel) and are involved in more than a dozen projects at the Palm Beach Polo Club. Gray is a talented curator who manages their horses, barns, and real estate holdings. In addition to his competition and school schedule, Vlock looks after the fine details, while also keeping the big picture in mind. In tandem, the best friends make a great team.
“Whatever these boys do, it is always top-notch,” says Carol Sollak, a real estate agent with Engel & Völkers. “They are always busy, have great vision, and are ahead of the times.”
Eager to launch the equestrian season, Vlock and Gray recently entertained friends and business pals at Castle Point Farm, hosting eight horse-loving guests for cocktails in Vlock’s elegant tack room/bar, followed by dinner in the splendid garden by the barn. “Since we all love horses, when we get together that is what we talk about,” says Gray, adding that he and Vlock prefer to entertain casually, in an unorganized yet welcoming fashion. “We are organic and like to hang out with friends. We want to meet new people and create new relationships.”
For his part, Vlock was excited for the chance to use the family barn as something other than just a home for horses. “It was fun to transform the barn into a Martha Stewart venue,” he quips. The interior, he notes, was conceived as a combination of classic American, old-school style with necessary modern touches. It was renovated to be more contemporary and timeless, with dark wood and an elegant air. “The barn is a showpiece for the beauty of the property.”
“We all love sport and animals,” continues Gray, “and since Teddy lives on the farm when he is not in school or traveling for equestrian events, he is happy to share it with our friends.”
The evening began with drinks in the tack room’s lounge area, located about two steps from the beloved horses and outfitted in slate, marble, and mahogany with copper accents and chandeliers. Guests sampled the “Winnermelon,” a signature cocktail made of Casamigos Silver tequila, watermelon, pineapple, and jalapeño tincture, and munched on tuna tartare, all the while raving about the hosts amid their excitement for the start of the season.
“Rob is the most generous and loyal friend,” says Paige Pepa, who grew up riding and has known Gray for years. “He shows up when he needs to be there. Plus, he can talk to anyone about anything, so he is a natural to co-host a timeless and tasteful party.”
“Rob and I have been friends for 10 years,” says equestrian Paige Bellissimo. “He is an amazing curator who’s worked for my dad [Mark Bellissimo]. I love the attention to detail and everything else Rob and Teddy do.”
The highlight of the night was the Eden-esque splendor of the table setting. The surrounding gardens and grounds made the guests feel both relaxed and reinvigorated as it reflected their love of Wellington and what the town represents to them and their families. Strolling to their seats through the flowering plants—including firecrackers, aquatic milkweeds, yellow bells, Stachytarpheta with its purple blooms, and rambling red cape honeysuckle—they remarked about the serenity of nature in general and how it calms their minds no matter how busy they are with their jet-setting equestrian careers.
The tablescape, by designer Kelly Murphy of Events on the Loose, was another vision of organic beauty. Tiki torches and string lights added the right touch of romance to the thickening twilight. “I am partial to alfresco dining,” says Murphy. “I like bringing indoors outside. We had a blank canvas with foliage, bricks, pavers, and the wood from the stable as inspiration for the table setting.”
The rustic table, made of reclaimed wood, featured a navy velvet runner topped with a floral centerpiece of green cymbidium and white phalaenopsis orchids, green hydrangea, and Green Trick dianthus from Wellington Flowers. Black slate plates paired with elegant glassware and Vivi flatware from Fortessa captured the evening’s overall blend of organic elegance.
The refined menu, prepared by Trophy Room chef James Strine, began with a watermelon salad of lime, mint, sunflower seeds, and cotija cheese, followed by a seafood salad of rock shrimp, crab, scallops, and arugula in a green goddess dressing. The main course was Bell & Evans chicken with stone fruit panzanella, tomato, and cucumber with natural jus, and swordfish with piperade, sautéed spinach, and fingerling potatoes.
“For outside dining, I kept things light,” says Strine. “No heavy meats, and for dessert, I opted for strawberry trifle pound cake, whipped cream, and dark chocolate because Rob loves it.”
While chowing down on the delicious dinner, guests talked about specific horse shows, events, and what to expect for the Wellington winter season to come. Gray shared his belief that 2020 will be the “biggest season yet” due to a 25 percent increase in competition. Since Wellington has become a total destination for the equestrian lifestyle, new and established riders from around the world are flocking here to be part of the action.
“We have great conversations because Rob and Teddy have their pulse on what is happening in the equestrian world with a dynamic spirit for the future,” says lifelong equestrian Lourdes de Guardiola.
As the night’s festivities came to a close, Vlock and Gray were left to reflect upon not just the careers they’re forging in the area, but the close-knit community they hope to continue to impact for the better. “Wellington is home for us,” says Gray, “and we love being here at our favorite time of the year.” «