Ben Maher (GBR) & Dallas Vegas Batilly. Photo © Sportfot.
Reigning Olympic champion Ben Maher (GBR) claimed victory in the CHF216,000 NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix in front of a packed house at Wellington International during “Saturday Night Lights” on January 28. The Wellington Equestrian Festival (WEF) welcomed forty-five international combinations to vie for top honors during the NetJets-sponsored WEF 3.
Maher and Dallas Vegas Batilly have been partnered together for only four months. The mare was previously campaigned by France’s Nicolas Delmotte. “She’s taken some time to get used to me and my system. She’s jumped some great rounds and was clear in the grand prix in Geneva. But every time we come to the jump-off, we’ve had problems with the steering.
“She’s very sensitive, but the jump-off really suited me tonight,” continued Maher, who is currently ranked sixth on the FEI world rankings list. “I could take strides out everywhere and tried to keep it smooth and trust her. I’ve learned I have to ask her to do things, not tell her. Everything worked and it certainly paid off this evening.”
Course designer Peter Grant (CAN) built a testing track that started with a bang as five early clears promised a thrilling second round. The code was cracked on his course by fourteen advancing to a tie-breaking jump-off. Talent from Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States made up the list of riders with their eye on the prize over the short course.
Appearing halfway through the original order, Maher clocked his clear round aboard Dallas Vegas Batilly, a 2013 Selle Français mare (Cap Kennedy x L’arc Triomphe *bois Margo) owned by Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright. He returned in the jump-off to chase down current leader and Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam aboard Namaste van het Eyckeveld, owned by Voquest LLC. By one tenth of a second, Maher unseated Sweetnam from the top of the leaderboard and posted an eventual winning time of 38.35 seconds.