Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 8
An absolute flat-out run to the last oxer of the $370,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 5*, presented by Rolex, brought Ben Maher the win in a dramatic fashion over his fellow Brit Scott Brash.
“It probably looked erratic to the last fence, almost hurtling I guess, but it wasn’t by choice,” Maher said. The first to jump off, Tiffany Foster on Verdi III left a stride out on a long gallop to the last, which made that move a requirement for any rider who wanted to win.
“I knew I had to be committed from the first stride, and I was going," Maher said. "That oxer looked like it was still on the other end of the arena, but I kept going. I don’t know how she jumped it, but she did it. I knew if I pulled to the last fence I would be giving it to Scott, so I gave it my best shot.”
Maher and Cella have been on a roll, also winning the $125,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix in a speed duel with Brash and Ursula. Maher and Cella, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Cento, have become quite the dream team.
“It’s been an incredible start to the year so far,” Maher acknowledged. “Cella had quite a long rest after the European Championships last year, and she came back to do a couple of shows towards the end of last year and actually has not jumped so much. She seems to love WEF. She loves the ring, and she feels fresh and on form. She is just an incredible horse to ride.
“The way I can gallop Cella to a double like that and a liverpool afterwards is like no other horse. I can gallop her, and she kind of stops, backs up, jumps up, and that’s where I can make up the time,” Maher said.
Watch Maher's bold move pay off:
Great Britain's Robert Ellis set a difficult track for Saturday night's class, with 45 competitors and seven clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. Foster of Canada and Artisan Farm's Verdi III led the way in the jump-off, and cleared the short course in 38.61 seconds to earn sixth place. McLain Ward and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild had an unfortunate stop on course for 4 faults in the jump-off in 47.36 seconds to place seventh.
Audrey Coulter of California and Copernicus Stables' Acorte were next to jump off and cleared the course in 37.52 seconds for a fifth-placed finish. Scott Brash took the lead next in 35.70 seconds aboard Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham's Ursula XII, but he eventually settled for second place.
Lucy Davis and Old Oak Farm's Barron placed third with a time of 35.98 seconds. Charlie Jayne and Chill R Z jumped into fourth in 37.04 seconds. Last to go in the jump-off, Maher and Jane Clark's Cella cleared the course in an electrifying 35.30 seconds to secure the victory. The crowd exploded as the pair took a huge leap to the final Rolex oxer and raced through the finish line.
“I think Bob Ellis did a great job with the course tonight,” Maher noted. “I think a few riders were walking the course tonight and saying it looked big, or it looked technical and quite tight in places, but with $370,000 I didn’t really expect any less. That’s huge prize money, and he was definitely going to make us work for it. I think the course was great. Obviously it suited me. It had everything—faults all over the course. This arena seems to provide some of the fastest jump-offs anywhere in the world. Luckily for me, I had a good draw tonight, and seeing Scott go, he was obviously fast. I was lucky enough to watch them, and it was definitely a big help to me tonight.”
For the winner’s share, Maher earned an impressive $122,000 for the night's victory. Brash also gave it his best shot with Ursula XII, a 13-year-old Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn, and he was happy with his finish.
”Ursula jumped fantastic tonight,” Brash smiled. “The first round, everything went according to plan until she jumped the triple bar, and I don’t know, she stumbled or something, but I got the six strides very late to the combination, and I was very late going in, and she was really good to jump the combination. Everything else went according to plan. She jumped amazing. My jump-off, I was really happy with. I have been working on my jump-offs with her—when I first got her it felt like I was going too fast and out of control, then I would go fast for the first half and have to make an adjustment half way around. That was the first time of being able to ride a very smooth jump-off and be very quick. She has kept her head, and I am very pleased."
Maher added, "I think it's important not to forget to thank Rolex for the sponsorship tonight. It is unbelievable the money and support that they are putting in to the sport over here, and especially in Wellington. I think it certainly looked like one of the biggest crowds to come out for the first major Rolex grand prix here. It was full from every side, and Bob Ellis did a good job of using the whole arena so the whole crowd could watch. We have the best riders here in the world. It is great sport and great entertainment for a Saturday night."
California’s 21-year-old Lucy Davis finished third with her horse, Barron, a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by For Pleasure. Davis, who trains with Germany’s Meredith-Michaels Beerbaum and Markus Beerbaum, earned the biggest victory of her young career this past September when she won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Lausanne with Barron. The young rider continued to make her mark on the world of show jumping Saturday night with a close finish behind two of the world's best.
“I have a very, very special horse,” Davis praised after the class. “We have been together for a year now, and he has improved so much over the year, and I have improved with him. It is really special to be able to ride in competitions like this, and being behind two Olympians is very inspiring. It makes me believe my goals and dreams are possible.
“I’d ideally like to do the [Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games], but that's a long shot, and that’s a lot of peoples’ goal right now, and it is very early in the year," Davis said. "My immediate goal is to keep consistent with what we are doing, and we'll see what happens!"
Final Results: $370,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5* Presented by Rolex
1. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin, BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 0/0/35.30
2. URSULA XII: 2001 Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lady Harris & Lady Kirkham: 0/0/35.70
3. BARRON: 2004 Swedish Warmblood gelding by For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve, LUCY DAVIS (USA), Old Oak Farm: 0/0/35.98
4. CHILL R Z: 2003 Zangersheide stallion by Chellano Z x A Lucky One, CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Alex Jayne and Maura Thatcher: 0/0/37.04
5. ACORTE: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Stakkato, AUDREY COULTER (USA), Copernicus Stables LLC: 0/0/37.52
6. VERDI III: 2002 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Cantus, TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/38.61
7. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant de l'Ile, MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 0/4/47.36
8. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco, BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 4/73.62
9. CABALLITO: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Contendro x Argentinus, ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 4/73.70
10. VINDICAT W: 2002 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Libero H, JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 4/75.01
11. MIC MAC DU TILLARD: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Cruising x Galoubet A, DAVID WILL (GER), Bernadette LeJeune: 4/75.27
12. TALOUBET: 2000 KWPN gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet x Quidam De Revel, PAULO SANTANA (BRA), Paulo Santana: 4/75.61