Ben Maher and Tic Tac. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography.
Toronto, ON – It was a true battle of excellence as Olympic team gold medalist Ben Maher of Great Britain nudged Canadian Olympic individual gold medalist Eric Lamaze for victory in the $85,000 Big Ben International Challenge on Thursday night, November 7, at the Royal Horse Show, held as part of the 97th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON.
Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt set a testing track that allowed the best horses and riders in the world to showcase their skills in front of a packed house in the Coca-Cola Coliseum. A total of 15 riders qualified for the jump-off, setting the stage for a battle of epic proportions.
As the 10th rider back for the jump-off, Lamaze set a blistering pace in front of the home crowd, slicing and dicing around the shortened track before galloping through the timers in 37.17 seconds. Next to challenge, Maher used Tic Tac’s huge stride to his advantage. When the clock flashed 36.75 seconds, Maher moved to the top of the leaderboard and remained there to take the win for owner Jane Clark.
“I think a lot of people didn’t like me in the stadium here this evening to beat Eric, but it’s sport; I always try my best!” said Maher, 34, who won a team gold medal as a member of the British team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“[Tic Tac] deserved this win,” continued Maher of the 16-year-old Belgian Sport Horse stallion. “He’s been knocking at the door. He didn’t jump many shows, but he had a couple of second places, so it’s nice to win a class with importance like this this evening.”
While Lamaze, 51, was forced to settle for second with Fine Lady 5, he currently leads both the GroupBy Leading International Rider and Leading Canadian Rider standings, helped by a win in the $37,000 Jolera International Strength and Speed Challenge on Wednesday, November 6.
Third place in Thursday night’s class went to Margie Goldstein Engle, 61, of the United States who stopped the jump-off clock in 37.61 seconds riding Dicas, owned by Gladewinds Partners, LLC.
Earlier in the day, Daniel Coyle of Ireland claimed the win in the afternoon’s featured $37,000 Brickenden Trophy. Riding Farrel for owner Ariel Grange, Coyle topped a 12-horse jump-off after posting the winning time of 31.85 seconds. Next into the Coca-Cola Coliseum, 18-year-old Brian Moggre of the United States made a valiant attempt to catch the leading time riding MTM Flutterby, but he settled for second place when the clock flashed 32.28 seconds. Australia’s Rowan Willis took third place with a time of 33.29 riding Calisto 26, while Lamaze and his mount, Chacco Kid, were fourth with a time of 33.68 seconds.
Ben Maher and Explosion W. Photo by GCL/Stefano Grasso.
New York, NY – The power pairings of Explosion W and Ben Maher and Clooney 51 and Martin Fuchs propelled London Knights to victory in the GCL New York and the overall 2019 Championship with drama until the final seconds.
Four flawless clear rounds were delivered by the unbeatable Knights who secured a historic second GCL title win after a rollercoaster season saw their duel with St. Tropez Pirates dominate the team series this year.
The Knights finished three points ahead of St. Tropez Pirates, with a total of 326 points this year. Madrid in Motion secured third in the Championship with 303 points, with the Shanghai Swans just hanging onto their fourth place, meaning they too will fast-track to the semi-finals at the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs.
The dramatic backdrop of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty provided one of the greatest stages for top-level show jumping as the world’s top riders and horses competed in the LGCT and GCL Finals for the first-time ever on Governors Island.
New Yorkers and visitors to the City filled the grandstands and cheered on the teams including home city team New York Empire, owned by Georgina Bloomberg who was watched by her father and former New York Mayor Michael.
Among guests were tennis ace Andre Agassi, supermodel Christy Turlington, and fashion designer Donna Karan for the first ever LGCT event in New York.
It was all about big names, big views, and big guns as the Knights fielded their top horses in their bid to seize the GCL Championship.
“For me, I’m biased but I have an incredible horse. To team up like this is a unique concept, where can you bring these kinds of horses together from different countries and compete like this. It was memorable day that’s for sure.
I’ve been to New York a couple times before to visit. It’s an incredible city. I don’t think anyone was sure what to expect. But, when we came here, like Global Champions does, they make the logistics incredibly easy for the grooms and the horses. The accommodations and how we are all looked after is five star. For the first year, I think the show is a huge success. There were big crowds here; it was well advertised and when I came out of the ring there were many people saying they enjoyed the day so hopefully this will grow.” ~ Ben Maher
City of Dreams Delivers as Maher Takes 2019 LGCT Title in New York
It was ‘game, set, and match’ after Ben Maher (GBR) wrote history aboard Explosion W in an extraordinary Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of New York, taking the LGCT Grand Prix win and the 2019 Championship title just hours after helping to secure the GCL team series crown for the London Knights.
In the city that never sleeps it would turn out to be a superlative showdown with a script that sporting dreams are made of. With spectators filling the rafters of the grandstand and positioned in every inch of space, the equestrian world watched as the knife-edge Championship reached its conclusion on Governors Island.
Devos (BEL) lead the overall ranking by just one point, but with pressure reaching fever pitch it was Ben Maher (GBR) who kept a cool head in a seven-rider jump-off to catapult himself to the title win – his second after taking the 2018 Championship.
A beaming Ben said: “I knew it would be a tough weekend – the dream was to win the team [title] and the individual. It doesn’t happen often. What a horse – he’s incredible. He understands me, I understand him, we have a great connection, and it’s a pleasure to be in the sport like this.
“It’s incredible [to win the title for a second year running]. Last year was unexpected; this year I’ve used Explosion a little less; I’ve used Concona, Madame X and F One USA, so I’m lucky to have so many great horses and great owners.”
In a touching sporting moment, Maher praised his rival Pieter Devos, who was just beaten into second place in the Championship. “[Pieter] gave a great fight; it was a push all the way to the end. I’m sure he’s going to come back strong.”
Ben Maher of the London Knights aboard Explosion W. Photo by GCL/Stefano Grasso.
New York, NY – In a script worthy of the Broadway stage, GCL New York Round 1 saw the London Knights claim pole position – propelling themselves back into the 2019 title fight as Saturday’s Championship decider rests on a knife edge.
London Knights’ formidable combination of Martin Fuchs with Clooney 51 and Ben Maher aboard Explosion W blew away the competition in a jaw-dropping class, taking pole position and every advantage possible heading into Saturday’s showdown.
However, just one rail away after the results are the current ranking leaders St. Tropez Pirates, with Pieter Devos and Dani G. Waldman collecting just 4 faults in the complex class to put them within touching distance of a podium – and the Championship title.
In a drama-fueled day, the Shanghai Swans – who were placed second in the overall rankings so far – were eliminated from the competition after Peder Fredricson and Zacramento unexpectedly parted ways during the first round of action. Their elimination would mean the team cannot improve on their score, dropping the Swans out of contention for the title.
Martin Fuchs spoke after their round: “It helped that we have two of the best horses in the world and are in great shape, so it’s a great start. My horse Clooney is in the best shape he’s ever been now.”
Teammate and team manager Ben Maher revealed the team’s tactics: “Martin and I sat down and we had a plan this week. We have our two best horses here, and it’s the first time we’ve teamed them up together.”
But the experienced British Olympic gold medalist remained clear-headed: “One minute you can be winning, the next you can be out, and every score counts. We’ve come with one of the best teams possible this weekend to put pressure on the others, so we’ll hope to produce more clear rounds tomorrow.”
Constant van Paesschen Dazzles in LGCT New York Opener
Victory was sweet for Belgium when Constant van Paesschen and his striking 10-year-old black stallion Vendetta Treize took top call in the opening event of the inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour New York. Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) claimed the runner-up position riding F, while Abdel Saïd (EGY) rounded out the top-three podium finishes on Axel 111 Z.
With his mount’s owner and breeder, Amandine Wittouck, watching from the sidelines, van Paesschen posted a blistering clear over Uliano Vezzani’s (ITA) opening CSI5* track. Of the round, he touted: “The horse jumped very well and it’s a very nice feeling to win. I wanted to try and leave one out somewhere, but I saw that it wasn’t coming up like I wanted so I stuck to the plan. The horse really tried, and I was crossing my fingers!
“To realize [an event] at this venue is unbelievable,” continued van Paesschen of the latest breathtaking addition to the LGCT circuit on Governors Island in New York, NY. “We have been riding all year in unbelievable locations, but this one stands out.”
Panoramic views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty provided a quintessential backdrop for the first day of competition at the Longines Global Champions Tour of New York and the riders rose to the test.
Jessica Springsteen. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT.
New York, NY – An A-List of the world’s show jumping stars is heading for the LGCT Finals in New York on September 27-29 on Governors Island in New York City.
With anticipation mounting, it was revealed that some of the top U.S. riders competing at the spectacular venue of Governors Island will be McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, Georgina Bloomberg, Margie Goldstein-Engle, Jessica Springsteen, and Jennifer Gates.
They will be up against a star-studded international field including Pieter Devos (BEL), Marcus Ehning (GER), Ben Maher (GBR), Daniel Deusser (GER), Peder Fredericson (SWE), Martin Fuchs (SUI), Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Darragh Kenny (IRL), Scott Brash (GBR), Harrie Smolders (NED), Simon Delestre (FRA), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE), and Olivier Philippaerts (BEL).
Every afternoon from Friday, September 27 to Sunday, September 29, the top athletes in show jumping will face off in the purpose-built sand arena and there is FREE ADMISSION for spectators who will be able to watch the competition.
U.S. rider Jessica Springsteen, who won last weekend’s LGCT Grand Prix in St. Tropez, spoke of the excitement surrounding the event in New York, near where she grew up with her dad Bruce and mom Patti in New Jersey. She said: “It’s my hometown; my whole family are coming. I think it is going to be unbelievable – I’m so looking forward to it!”
Star Strikers Revealed for Final GCL Face Off in New York
High stakes, enormous pressure, and big expectations… the GCL team competition is set to reach fever pitch as the battle for supremacy rockets to its conclusion in New York.
Throughout the year the GCL team competition has seen more drama, tactics, and excitement than ever before, with all 16 teams experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions this season.
Currently leading are the St. Tropez Pirates with a score of 304 points, closely followed by the Shanghai Swans on 302 so far. Just six points behind at 296 are the former leaders and 2018 Champions London Knights, while Madrid in Motion are a further six points away with 290 overall.
As well as the Championship title, teams are fighting for a place in the GC Prague Playoffs GCL Super Cup, with the top four ranked teams fast-tracking to the semi-finals – a huge advantage in the fight for the 3 million euro prize pot and chance to etch their names into the history books.
An Unmissable LGCT Showdown in New York
The Longines Global Champions Tour Finals in New York are set to be an unmissable showdown with only one point separating the season’s top two riders, Pieter Devos (BEL) and Ben Maher (GBR), in the Championship.
The fight for the LGCT crown is on a knife edge in one of the closest duels in the history of the LGCT. In a dramatic shake-up last weekend, Devos took over the ranking lead after finishing second in the LGCT Grand Prix of Ramatuelle/Saint-Tropez, putting him on 278 points, just one point ahead of Maher on 277.
Both riders have been volleying for the lead, leapfrogging each other to take over the top spot in the ranking at different points throughout the season.
However, with only nine scores counting in each rider’s tally, Maher is in a slightly stronger position heading into the Finals in New York despite being second currently in the ranking.
Maher and Explosion W (Photo courtesy of Stefano Grasso)
Rome, Italy (August 16, 2019) – Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Maher’s show jumping prowess has been the subject of championship stories at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the 2012 London Games, and numerous international competitions around the globe. On the famed Longines Global Champion Tour (LGCT) circuit, Maher has consistently topped its destination events over the past two years, and this summer was victorious not only in his nation’s capital of London while representing the home team London Knights, but is well positioned to reclaim his 2018 LGCT Champion of Champions title for 2019.
Maher kicked off the 2019 LGCT season with a second-place finish aboard his anchor KWPN stallion, Explosion W (Chacco Blue x Untouchable), in the LGCT of Doha. Subsequent top finishes for Maher and teammates on the London Knights in Stockholm, Sweden and Casais/Estoril, Portugal further cemented their prestige in the LGCT ranks. From August 2nd to 4th, Maher truly proved his star power, winning the LGCT Grand Prix of London and skyrocketing both himself and his team to top rankings in the tour and league. In a four-horse jump-off and aboard Explosion W, Maher edged out Shane Sweetnam aboard Alejandro and Darragh Kenny aboard Classic Dream to take the win on a time of 38.98. It was double gravy for Maher, who won not only for his home team, the London Knights, but also in his nation’s capital.
Following the LGCT in London and the subsequent LGCT Valkenswaard, Maher sits perfectly poised to pounce at future destinations and be named the 2019 LGCT Champion of Champions for the second year in a row. Maher no doubt has his sights set on further victories and ultimately Tokyo 2020.
Ben Maher and Explosion W (Photo credit: Tiffany Van Halle)
The first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier, the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, provided thrilling entertainment for the packed crowds at CHIO Aachen. The nail-biting jump-off saw Great Britain’s Ben Maher take the top prize following a tightly fought contest, with Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Daniel Deusser finishing in second and third place, respectively.
With eleven horse and rider combinations reaching the jump-off it was Dutch rider, Marc Houtzager, who put the pressure on his fellow competitors with a careful round in 50.13 seconds to secure the first clear on the scoreboard. But much to the delight of the home-crowd, Germany’s Daniel Deusser showed off his enviable skill to shave nearly three seconds off Houtzager’s time and with an eruption from the patriotic spectators, he took the lead. His position was not held for long, with Great Britain’s Ben Maher and the notoriously fast chestnut gelding, Explosion W, producing an electrifying round finishing in 46.28 seconds, a time that proved too difficult to beat.
Explosion W looks to be in amazing form; how did he feel during this first class?
It is his first time in Aachen; he hasn’t seen many arenas like this in his life yet, but when you put the tack on and you get on this horse, he makes you believe you can do anything. He makes my life and my job much easier than most!
There seemed to be few problems at the water; was that an issue for Explosion at all?
It wasn’t an issue for him, but it was an issue for me! I actually made a mistake. I made eight strides in the first round instead of nine. I had a kick in the head this morning from a fall, so maybe I can’t count anymore! But he made up for my small mistake and that’s the difference between an incredible horse like him and some of the other horses I have had.
It appeared to be quite a difficult course for the first 5* class at CHIO Aachen; what are your thoughts on this?
I agree, it was a difficult first class, but it creates good sport for the spectators to watch when they see a little drama like this in competition. It was a big course and, judging it on this, we now know what might be coming on Sunday for the Rolex Grand Prix.
CHIO Aachen is renowned as one of the best equestrian events in the world; how does it feel to win here?
Winning never gets old. I am very competitive! I think the difference with winning here is the size of the arena and the number of fans that are watching; we don’t have that in a sport normally. I think that’s what makes it even more special, to ride into this ring that has so much history and so many people following it; that’s why every rider wants to win here.
Wellington, FL – January 28, 2018 – The third week of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) ended with a victory for Olympic team gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) riding Don Vito in the $35,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Classic on Sunday to conclude Adequan® CSI3*.
(L to R) Michael Whitaker, Di Lampard Chef d’Equipe, Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza and John Whitaker. (FEI/Stefano Secchi)
Rome (ITA), 27 May 2016 – Team Great Britain clinched the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title for the second year in a row at Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA). And it was the genius of the legendary John Whitaker that sealed the result with a brilliant last-to-go run with Ornellaia. The 60-year-old rider is one of the best-loved characters in the sport, and could afford a single fence down in the second round. But true to form, he left all the poles in place to post one of four double-clears on a day of brilliant sport to secure the winning British total at just four faults.
The World and European champions from The Netherlands were firm favourites as the action began, but they disappeared from the reckoning with a disappointing second round and it was the French and Americans who eventually filled runner-up spot with 12 faults each. Germany slotted into fourth ahead of the The Netherlands in fifth while Canada lined up sixth ahead of Sweden and Italy who divided seventh place.
The air at Piazza di Siena was filled with pre-Olympic tension and, from the outset, the British demonstrated their resolve. As defending Olympic champions they came up against teams they may well meet in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in just over two months’ time, and the message was loud and clear. They were the only side to conclude the first round on a zero score as John Whitaker’s first fault-free effort was matched by Ben Maher with Tic Tac and Jessica Mendoza riding Spirit T. Michael Whitaker, who along with his older brother was also a member of the winning team at Piazza di Siena 12 months ago, produced the first-round discount score with nine faults from Cassionato. But his foot-perfect second run would prove pivotal to the end result.
This was Great Britain’s eleventh victory at Piazza di Siena since the Nations Cup was first staged at the iconic venue in 1926 and, as Chef d’Equipe, Di Lampard, pointed out afterwards, Friday’s performances just make her selection decisions for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games all the more difficult. “But that’s OK,” she said. “It’s a really good problem to have!”
As the second round began the competition was still wide open, with the Americans, Dutch, French and the host nation all stalking the leading British with just four faults on their respective score-cards. Sweden had already racked up eight faults while the Canadians and Germans had nine apiece, and with additional penalties none of these nations would feature prominently at the end of the day. One of the standout performances of the day, however, came from Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and the very exciting 10-year-old mare H&M Cue Channa 42 who cruised around both rounds with the greatest of ease.
Despite a fabulous double-clear from Penelope Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme, the French lost their grip, and the Americans did likewise when also adding eight more faults even though their anchor partnership of McLain Ward and HH Azur were also foot-perfect for a second time. Italian chances were dashed with 20 faults to add to their tally, but the biggest surprise was the collapse of the Dutch whose pathfinder, World and European champion Jeroen Dubbeldam, added 16 faults to his first-round single error with SFN Zenith on a day his team will probably prefer to forget.
It was impossible to predict the outcome, however, when Ben Maher kicked off Britain’s second round with a mistake at the first element of the difficult double at fence eight as well as the last fence. Mendoza hit only the delicate vertical that followed the spooky hedge-filled oxer at fence five, but then Michael Whitaker began to pull it back with a great clear from the enigmatic Cassionato who was a lot more settled on his second tour of the arena.
This ensured that his brother had a fence in hand coming into the ring to bring the competition to a close. John said afterwards that it was less pressure than 12 months ago – “I didn’t have a fence in hand that day” – but he still had a job to do. And he did it in style, his clear round leaving his team two fences clear of the joint-runners-up from America and France.
John was delighted with Ornellaia. “This was her first Nations Cup and she showed what she can do,” he said. He has already decided that his more familiar ride, the stallion Argento, won’t be going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “Argento is a great horse; he’s a real fighter but he has his limits and I don’t want to push him beyond them. Ornellaia has done some good things already; she’s really careful and she’s the one for Rio if I am needed, and if I am asked to go. I’m definitely keen to go; the Olympics are the Olympics and there’s nothing like them; everyone feels that way, but I’m probably not in the top five (for selection) if Big Star (Nick Skelton) and Sanctos (Scott Brash) are ready,” he explained.
John reckons his brother Michael’s grey stallion also has great Olympic potential. “There’s nothing that horse can’t jump!” he said. Michael admitted that Cassionato was “a bit too fresh” in the first round – “He was jumping up so high, so in the second round I had to ask him to come back down!” he explained. Cassionato certainly seems to have a whole lot of fun every time he goes in the ring – “He’s a bit like a very naughty boy!” Michael said with a laugh.
It was John who was the hero of the day, however, and not for the first time in his life. This man whose career has embraced so many wonderful moments and so many great horses, including the legendary Milton and Ryan’s Son, said this evening that he continues to relish the fun and excitement every time he goes in the ring. “I don’t feel the pressure anymore; I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do so now I just go out and enjoy myself – I’ve got nothing to prove,” said the great horseman, who once again was filled with pride when sealing victory for his country.
That pride and passion precisely mirrors the unique spirit of the jewel in the crown of the FEI – the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.
For further information on the ninth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 series Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA), visit www.piazzadisiena.org or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, firstname.lastname@example.org, +39 335 6107070.
The next leg of the series will take place in St Gallen (SUI) on Friday 3 June. For information on the Swiss fixture, go to www.csio.ch or contact Press Officer Roman Gasser, email@example.com, +41 79 635 50 05.
Show Director Eleonora Ottaviani: “What makes me really happy is that all the riders and the Chef d’equipes wanted to give priority to the Nations Cup this week, because this is our sport.”
Show President, Vittorio Orlandi: “I’m very glad that my two friends for many years, John and Michael (Whitaker), have won with their team. Congratulations to you and the young riders on your team; today’s competition was super-spectacular!”
FEI Jumping Director John Roche: “This was an outstanding performance by the British today. And the FEI is very proud to be connected with this event at this iconic location; long may it continue!”
Jessica Mendoza GBR: “This is my first time in Rome; the jumping was amazing and the course was great. I’ll be enjoying a few drinks with my team tonight!”
Ben Maher GBR: “I started riding Tic Tac in January in 1.40m classes and La Baule (in France, two weeks ago) was his first international show where we jumped 1.50m. I’m still getting to know him but he has a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to the future with him.”
For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series, check out this link.
McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z Capture $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Shane Sweetnam Leads 2016 Series Overall
Wellington, FL – April 2, 2016 – Grand prix action at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded with an exciting international showdown Saturday night as Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Jane Clark’s Sarena jumped to victory in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*. The finale grand prix for the winter circuit, Maher and Sarena topped a seven-horse jump-off, with McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur in second, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Fibonacci 17 third.
Forty of the circuit’s best horses and riders representing 13 different countries jumped for the winter’s top prize competing under the lights in front of a packed house at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. The star-studded competition concluded a fantastic 12-week circuit for the international show jumpers. The circuit wraps up on Sunday, April 3, with the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC.
The $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final was also held on Saturday with a win for McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z in an 18-horse jump-off, presented by SOVARO®. Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam earned the leading rider award for the 12-week series overall.
Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) set the courses in the International Ring at PBIEC for the final week of WEF competition. With 40 starters in the grand prix, D’Ambrosio’s first round course yielded seven clear for the jump-off, and only one clear over the short course for the win.
Chloe Reid (USA) and Codarco were the first combination to clear the course in round one, but opted not to continue on to the jump-off to automatically finish seventh. Yann Candele (CAN) and the Watermark Group’s First Choice 15 were then the first pair to jump the short course, finishing with 12 faults in 52.31 seconds to place sixth. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Cynar Va jumped next, with eight faults in 48.69 seconds to finish fifth.
McLain Ward and HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and Francois Mathy, jumped off next, finishing with a fast time in 46.10 seconds, but added an unfortunate four faults that left the pair in second place. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aimed for a safe clear round aboard Artemis Equestrian Farm’s Fibonacci 17, but also dropped a rail along the way, finishing third overall with her time of 51.41 seconds. Maher and Sarena followed, completing the only clear round over the second course for the win with a steady round in 53.72 seconds. Last to go, Todd Minikus (USA) and Two Swans Farm’s Babalou 41 had one rail down as well, finishing fourth with their time of 52.63.
Speaking of his winning mount, a ten-year-old Selle Francais mare (Calvaro Z x Damoiseau d’Or), Maher stated, “I have had Serena for just over a year now, and it has been a tough ride. She was a horse that was bought to jump these big classes, but she was young when we got her, and it really took a year to get to know her and for her to get to know me. It has been a lot of hard work and patience from Jane Clark, who supported me the whole way through last year, because I had a lot of disappointing rounds. I told her to stick with me, and we worked hard with the whole team at home. This is the first class she has won, but she picked the right time and I hope there will be many more.”
Maher spoke further about how he has gotten to know Sarena more over the last 12 weeks at WEF and really used the circuit to develop their partnership.
“We had a careful plan,” he explained. “She did not jump much since November and became pretty consistent over the last few grand prix. The worst she has had is one down since November. I found in the jump-offs, when I try to go quick, she starts to run backwards a little bit and it is not always a nice feeling. She has to get confident and get used to running and jumping.
“The course tonight, I thought she jumped the first round excellent,” Maher continued. “It was the first time under the lights for her, and she did not seem to be affected by that. It was a tough course, but the jump-off really played into my hands. Had McLain’s turn pulled off, and had Meredith left the jumps up, I do not know if I could have actually been quick enough to beat them, so I decided to play it a little safe and leave the jumps up. That is not my nature normally, but I think I played a smart game tonight and put the pressure on Todd. Fortunately for me, it worked out. It could have gone either way.”
The cards did not play in Ward’s favor this time around, but the rider was happy for Maher, and felt that HH Azur jumped two great rounds. The ten-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) took a big win in week seven’s $380,000 Suncast® Grand Prix CSI 5*. Ward gave it everything in this week’s jump-off hoping for another victory, but one unlucky rail came down.
“We have been building up towards this trying to get her fit,” Ward noted. “Our plan was to try to not totally peak her, but pretty much peak her at this point and then drop back a little, have a little rest, and then aim for Rio. She felt another gear tonight and to be honest, with these guys coming behind me, I was not trying to leave anything on the table. I was kind of trying to put the knife in them. I think her pole was a little bit unlucky to be honest. I do not think she hit it very hard. I maybe started to press to the last line a touch early. The horse performed great, I was happy with the riding, and you have a great winner. Ben is a super, top, world-class rider, one of the best in the world. It is always nice to win, but you can live with being beat by a guy like this.”
Michaels-Beerbaum also thought Fibonacci 17 jumped great and just had an unlucky rail in the jump-off. The 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (For Feeling x Corland) finished the night in third place, and his rider was happy to be in the top three alongside Maher and Ward.
“Fibonacci was in great form tonight; he felt amazing, and he jumped two beautiful rounds,” Michaels-Beerbaum stated. “I did not actually expect to knock one down in the jump-off because he was jumping so well, so maybe I took that jump a little casually or underestimated it perhaps. I was delighted with him. I am very pleased to be in the top three. That is always where a rider would like to end up, and with these two in front of me, my Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker will read their names in Germany and know the class was really hard and good, so it works for me.”
Maher spoke of the night’s first round track, stating, “I thought it was a great course. For my horse in particular, it started a little bit bold. I knew the water to the double verticals was going to be a difficult ride. It did not feel so comfortable how I got that done, but I got it done. The last line, the horses were tired and it was a big oxer coming out. The Rolex oxer was wide at the end, and for sure a lot of hopes were dashed there. I thought there would be more clears actually. They all jumped well, but it is hard to jump double-clear in these grand prix.”
Ward added his thoughts on the course, stating, “I thought Anthony did a great job. He had the right number of clear, faults all over the place, and it was a very smooth course to ride. The water line was a little tricky, but I thought it gave the riders a fair chance, and was an excellent course.”
Commenting on the end to a fantastic evening, Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark Bellissimo added his final thoughts, stating, “I want to commend this group. It is such an international crowd with USA, Great Britain, and Germany represented with all world-class riders. It is exciting to see such great sport here and to end on a very high note. I am pleased that everyone was so spectacular in their performances this evening. I would also like to thank Rolex. This festival took a big transition a number of years ago when Rolex came on board, and it was a transition to four five-star [shows]. It was nice to finish this year on a great five-star and a great class.”
Along with the winner’s share of $165,000, Maher was presented the 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.
Sarena’s groom, Tracey Edge, received the Groom’s Initiative Award presented by Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners, to reward her dedication and hard work as an integral member of the winning team.
In addition to the grand prix, several other awards were presented Saturday evening for the final week of competition in Wellington. Equinimity LLC, owners of Carrabis Z, were presented the Simba Run Perpetual Trophy as the owner of the open jumper who has earned the most prize money in classes held at 1.45m or more during the 2016 WEF. Carrabis Z’s grooms, Hector Paz and Rodrigo Pimentel, were presented with the Oliver O’Toole Perpetual Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the groom of the horse who has earned the most money in the grand prix jumper classes.
Artisan Farms was presented with The Harrison Cup Perpetual Trophy, which is awarded to the owner whose horses won the most jumper money in all of the open jumper classes held throughout the circuit.
Other awards included the Overall Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for the 2016 circuit, which was presented to Canada’s Tiffany Foster on behalf of Martha Jolicoeur of Douglas Elliman. Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and owner Lisa Lourie accepted the Overall Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award for Spy Coast Farm’s Cyklon 1083, as the jumper whose style best exemplifies a show jumper based on scope, rideability, technique and competitive spirit.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) earned the Hermès Talented Young Rider Award as the young jumper rider between the ages of 16-25 that has earned the most points in all WEF FEI rated jumper competition. Lillie Keenan (USA) was the recipient of the USET Foundation’s 2016 Maxine Beard Award, an honor based on a rider’s competitive record and potential to represent the United States in international competition.
McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z Capture $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Shane Sweetnam Leads 2016 Series Overall
The $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final concluded on Saturday with a win for McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z. The competition had 62 entries over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s (USA) first round course during the day, with 18 clear rounds to advance to the jump-off in the evening, presented by SOVARO®.
Out of 18 in the jump-off, only seven were able to clear the short course without fault. Ward and Double H Farm’s HH Carlos Z won in the fastest time of 43.92 seconds. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable’s Rosana du Park finished second in 44.96 seconds.
Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) guided Citizenguard Cadjanine Z, owned by Pessoa and Alain van Campenhoudt, to third place honors in a time of 45.46 seconds. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Tiger Lily placed fourth in 45.74 seconds. Pessoa also took fifth place honors aboard his own and Caroline Lloyd’s Sans Soucis Z in 48.24 seconds. USA’s Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Quister finished sixth in 49.43 seconds, and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum jumped the final clear round in 50.59 seconds aboard Artemis Equestrian Farm’s Apsara to take the seventh place prize.
HH Carlos Z has been an incredibly successful mount for Ward, even winning last year’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, among many top accolades. Once again, the 14-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z x Voltaire) did not disappoint with his victory in the 1.50m final.
“For Double H Farm, and me, he is an ATM machine,” Ward stated. “He can do any class at this show, as everyone has seen. He has been in great form, so we are thrilled with him. He is a super careful horse. He fights and digs his way to win some very big classes.”
Speaking of the track and the unique format of the class, Ward remarked, “I was very surprised by the first round. I thought the course walked very difficult. The lines were very tricky. He (D’Ambrosio) has a height limit in that class, so the verticals can go up to 1.55m, but it is tough. It is the end of the circuit, and you have a lot of horses in form. With only 40 in the grand prix, people were trying to get some gas money to go home. It is a pretty competitive class always, and it is an interesting test. You have the afternoon round early in the day. It was very hot today, and I think that was a factor. Then the horses are put away and come back at night, and I think you saw some problems up the first line, and to me that was a lot to do with that.”
Ward detailed the second round further, stating, “I lost my footing a little bit rolling back on the wall, but he was good to me. Then everything showed up so well that I decided to take the around option. I knew I was fast. I left a little room, but luckily the rest made mistakes.”
Following the completion of the final class, Suncast® once again presented the leading rider of the 1.50m Series a fantastic prize. As the most consistent competitor in the 2016 series overall, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam received a pre-paid one-year lease on a beautiful new 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as a SOVARO® Cooler. In 2016, the series offered a total purse of $699,000 with 10 FEI world ranking classes. Sweetnam won week four’s $35,000 1.50m class aboard The Blue Buckle Group’s Buckle Up and also had top ribbons with four other mounts throughout the series.
On winning the award, Sweetnam stated, “It is fantastic. It shows consistency over the whole circuit. It is not just one horse. Between my oldest horse and my youngest horse, they all played a part in it.
“I had an eight-year-old named Main Road that was placed twice, and they were his first 1.50m classes,” Sweetnam detailed. “Cyklon 1083, who is 15 years old, was placed in two of the $84,000 classes. It is great to see the range of my old guys coming through and then the younger guys coming up. Buckle Up is only ten years old, and he jumped an important clear today to finalize it, and he won one also.”
In total, Sweetnam had five different horses competing in the series throughout the 12-week circuit. Along with Main Road, Buckle Up, and Cyklon 1083, he also had consistent finishes aboard his experienced mount Eregast van’t Kiezelhof, as well as Cobolt, a ten-year-old gelding sired by Cyklon.
Speaking of the special prize, a pre-paid one-year lease on a 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport, Sweetnam acknowledged, “It is brilliant. It is a reward for all of your hard work as a rider, and it is a great thing to be getting. I am very happy.”
Also competing in the International Ring on Saturday, Bretton Chad and Stone Ridge Farms’ Cornishman won the $15,000 MAYBACH – ICONS OF LUXURY SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.
Russell Frey and Kodachrome Lead Round One of $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
The first round of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby was held in the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring on Saturday. Round one’s standings determined the top 25 competitors that will then continue on to round two, to be held Sunday afternoon on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC beginning at 1 p.m.
Russell Frey and Nina Koloseike Moore’s Kodachrome lead the standings heading into Sunday’s final round with the high score of 185 in round one. Samantha Schaefer and her own Classified sit second with a score of 184. Callie Seaman and Carrico finished third in round one with a score of 182. Jennifer Hannan and Reilly Cookingham’s All Time head into Sunday’s round with the fourth place score of 179.5. Jane Gaston and Because finished the first round in fifth place with a score of 178.5, and Jennifer Bauersachs and Spring Hill Farm’s For Love ended the day with a score of 176.5 to return for Sunday’s final round sitting in sixth place overall.
The 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival concludes with the final round of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC on Sunday. For more information and full results, please visit www.pbiec.com.
Ovation and Tori Colvin Take Home the Championship Prize in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunter 16-17
Wellington, FL – March 7, 2015 – Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Diva II jumped to victory in the $372,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5*, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Saturday night at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). The pair topped a three-horse jump-off with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Fibonacci 17 in second and Laura Kraut (USA) with Cedric third.
Alan Wade’s (IRL) course under the lights tested all of the horses and riders Saturday night, and only those three, out of the 41 starters, were able to advance to the jump-off. It took 17 rounds before Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC’s Fibonacci 17 were the first pair to jump clear in round one. Another 17 rounds, and Laura Kraut and Cherry Knoll Farm Inc.’s Cedric jumped the second clear to make a jump-off. Second to last, Ben Maher and Tatiana Korsakova’s Diva II put in the third clear trip. The three combinations returned to settle the final standings in one more round.
Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17 were first to return, jumping clear over the short course in 46.31 seconds. Kraut and Cedric had one rail down in a slower time of 46.76 seconds. Maher and Diva II were last to go, clearing the course in 46.03 seconds for the win.
Maher started riding Diva II, a 10-year-old Anglo European mare by (Kannan x Berlioz), in November of 2014 and finished out last year’s Winter Equestrian Festival with a 1.50m win in week eleven of the circuit. Diva has developed throughout the year and came back even better in 2015, stepping up to the bigger classes and proving her talent in Saturday’s challenging World Cup qualifying event.
Despite jumping at the end of the class and returning for the second round after only a brief break, the mare put in the extra effort.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround for me. I was second from the end, so Diva did not have much time to recover, which I really felt in the warm-up especially before the jump-off,” Maher stated. “That jump-off probably was not my best ever round. Diva is hairy in the way she goes. She is not so conventional always, but I did not have a lot to lose. A couple weeks ago I played it safe. Tonight I knew I would be top three, so I figured that I would have a go and with a little bit of luck here and there, it paid off.”
“She has come a long way this circuit. I had her this time last year and we built up,” Maher detailed. “I remember being in the medium schooling jumpers out in the back ring and still kicking out the back rails then. It is exciting for me. Obviously Jane Clark is a great owner of mine, and we have had a building circuit with her horses. This is nice for another owner in Tatiana Korsakova. This is the first horse that they have owned at this level and hopefully this will bring new partnerships into the sport and something good for the future.”
With the best win of Diva’s career, Maher noted that the mare also won a class in Olympia with Alan Wade building.
“He is a great course builder,” Maher stated. “When I walked, I thought it was quite a smooth course, but they were big jumps. I was right at the end to go and there were fences falling everywhere. There was not anything in particular that was the main cause of the problems. It is big money, so you expect a big course.”
“I’m very happy with my horse tonight because I think Cedric is one of the best horses in the world for a long time and Meredith’s horse is probably right there coming into its prime,” Maher added. “Diva could not have been in better company.”
After winning the $372,000 Suncast® CSI 5* Grand Prix two weeks ago, Michaels-Beerbaum was thrilled with another top finish for her talented mount, Fibonacci 17. The 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (For Feeling x Corland) has become a worldwide star since pairing up with the German rider and once again showed off his impressive jump under the lights.
“He felt great. He jumped the first round beautifully,” Michaels-Beerbaum expressed. “In the jump-off, I had a couple of things go wrong. I lost my stirrup after (jump) number two, which made me nervous because he jumps so high (that) I would not like to jump a fence without a stirrup. I made sure I got my stirrup back before the next fence, which takes a little time and then I had a slight slip going back to the oxer in front of the VIP, which he handled beautifully. These two little things cost you a couple tenths of a second.”
Michaels-Beerbaum also weighed in on the night’s course, agreeing that the degree of difficulty was appropriate for an important class.
“I think that it was a great course because you saw faults everywhere, which really shows the mastership of a great course designer, instead of having one thing that horses can’t jump,” she remarked. “There were very wide oxers and tall verticals tonight everywhere. I thought it was brilliant and I think at this level, it is a championship level, and it is good when it is tough. It is good when there are only a few horses that rise to the top and jump-off. I think it was a really exciting class, and we heard that from all sides.”
For Kraut, this top three finish with Cedric was emotional, as every moment with the 17-year-old gelding is cherished. A pint-sized Holsteiner by Chambertin x Carolus Z, Cedric gave it his all Saturday night and will now have a well-deserved break.
“I was saying to Meredith earlier, because she understands having had Shutterfly, that every time that horse puts in a performance like he did tonight it makes me want to cry,” Kraut acknowledged. “It is so emotional. He has such a big heart and tonight it was very, very difficult. I promised him earlier that if he was good tonight I would not make him do anymore this circuit and he could have a little break. He must have heard me. I want to thank Margaret Duprey for making it possible for me to have this horse until he is 17 and on. It is a blessing every time.”
Kraut was also presented the Leading Lady Rider award for week nine, presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.
Wrapping up a fantastic night of show jumping, Don Langdon, a Palm Beach Broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, expressed his company’s appreciation for the sport and its top competitors.
“I think if I was going to do a parlay, I would have picked Ben Maher to win early. It was breathtaking,” Langdon stated. “For the spectators, we were all holding our breath. I think that showed, and the riders rose to the challenge, which is great. Our company is so proud to be a part of what you are all doing. We sponsored the Hampton Classic for the last 12 years. This is the first run in Wellington, and it is a result of my relationship with Palm Beach Polo for the last 31 years. I hope it is a harbinger of things to come. It will take us to great heights together because we certainly love supporting the sport. Thank you for making us a part of it. Mark Bellissimo has been a great friend and a great supporter, and we are happy to be here.”
Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Emanuel Andrade (VEN) won the $15,000 SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic aboard Fananka A.
Ovation and Tori Colvin Take Home the Championship Prize in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunters 16-17
Despite a rainy afternoon, Tori Colvin and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Ovation stayed on point to finish the day as champions in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunters 16-17. On the first day of competition, Colvin and Ovation topped both over fences classes and the under saddle. With the change in weather, Ovation was a little up the second day, but still won the first over fences class on his way to the tricolor ribbon. “He [Ovation] was a bit wild today. I trotted in and his head went up, but he was amazing yesterday, so it made up for today,” Colvin smiled.
Ailish Cunniffe rode Good Times, an entry of Jennifer Gates, to reserve championship honors. The pair remained consistent over both days, earning three seconds and a third over fences, along with a second in the under saddle.
No stranger to the winner’s circle, Colvin and Ovation turned in another stellar performance this week in the Small Junior Hunters. Colvin commented, “Friday was the best that he [Ovation] has ever gone.”
The highlight of the weekend was Ovation’s handy hunter round that earned a high score of 90. “I loved the handy yesterday,” Colvin started. “I did an inside turn that I was not planning on, which put me on a sharp angle, but it worked out.”
Although this is Colvin’s last year competing with Ovation before he retires, she is enjoying having a reliable winner. “He [Ovation] is an old man at this point. Once he is in the groove, he is very easy and straight-forward in the ring,” Colvin explained.
After WEF, Colvin will primarily show Ovation at the larger shows and looks forward to her last indoors season with him. As for Colvin’s own career, she plans to compete in both the jumpers and hunters after she ages out of the juniors. “I want to keep doing the hunters, but the jumpers are really fun!” Colvin exclaimed.
Week nine concludes on Sunday with the $85,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic beginning at approximately 10:00 a.m. The class will be live streamed at http://bit.ly/18QxRVj. WEF 9 hunter coverage concludes with the Karina Brez Jewelry Adult Amateur 36-49 Section B in the Rost Arena. For full results and more information, please visit www.pbiec.com.
Lauren Fisher and Maddy Stover for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.