Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 6
When Ben Maher of Great Britain took over the rides on Jane Clark’s horses last year at this time, he clicked right away with Cella, but it took a bit longer to find the key to Urico. But with a few changes to the way he rides and prepares Urico, Maher ended up with a win in one section of the $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5.
Held in a "California Split" due to the large number of entries—115 horses—the competition awarded two sets of placings, each with $125,000 distributed. Tiffany Foster of Canada won the other section aboard Victor; Maher was seventh in that section of the class aboard Cella with a rail in the jump-off.
"Urico was fantastic," Maher stated. "We spent a long time building him up since this time last year. I had a couple of accidents on him and now we really pinpoint him for certain classes. We don't use him as much, but if we do it the right way, he is a great horse. It is looking like it pays off.
“He jumped a good first round, and I was lucky enough to have two in the jump-off. Cella jumped phenomenally in the jump-off and I just sliced the liverpool way too much. I thought she was a machine, not a horse I guess, so it reminded me I have to pay attention a bit more. On Urico, I had to ride a little bit wider there knowing that sometimes he gets a little afraid. He is naturally such a fast horse, so as soon as that was out of the way, I ran him to the end and luckily he was just a lot quicker."
Maher said that he has completely revamped his way of riding Urico since last year. "Whatever I was doing this time last year, I am doing the opposite, now, pretty much,” he said. “He wanted to run quite close to the jumps and sometimes that caused him to panic a little bit, so I have worked him much differently. He gets a lot more work now in the mornings for preparation for the afternoon so that he is a bit quieter. I also tend to ride him with a little more space to the jumps so he does not have that moment of freezing up at the end. He is a very sensitive horse, so when he is confident, I am confident, and then hopefully the results come. That is the plan."
Maher commented on the course for Thursday's class, noting that it was one of the most challenging that he has seen yet at this year's competition. "I thought Bob Ellis did an amazing job," he stated. "Where do you begin to start to build a course for 115 riders? It wasn’t perhaps the biggest we've ever seen, but Bob is clever. He places jumps on angles and rollbacks. He catches people out everywhere. That is probably what we haven't seen yet here this season. There has been a lot of galloping, but not actually many real turnbacks and opportunities to cut across the fences. It was definitely the most testing course we have had here this year.” Out of the 115 starters, 30 jumped clean and went on to the jump-off.
The top three finishers in Section A included Maher and Urico, Reed Kessler of the U.S. and Kessler Show Stables' Ligist in second with a time of 44.11 seconds, and Eric Lamaze of Canada with Artisan Farms' Zigali P S in third in 44.93 seconds.
Section B saw a top finish for Foster and Victor, with Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner's Cortes 'C' in second with a time of 44.79 seconds, and Wilton Porter and Sleepy P Ranch LLC's Paloubet in third in 44.96 seconds.
Foster, a protégé of Lamaze’s, was thrilled to put the accelerator down on Victor. "He is really fast and now it is getting really fun because I can go really fast with him,” she said. “I am always having fun, but I am especially having fun jumping like this when you can go fast. Once you get on a roll it seems like you get some confidence, and then you are really prepared to take some risks. Then when the horses rise to you, it is really awesome. I have a super group of horses, and I have to thank the Zieglers and Artisan Farms because they are unbelievable owners. I am really happy that I am able to now have it all start to pay off."
FTI WEF week five, sponsored by Rolex, runs Feb. 5-9 and includes the $370,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix CSI-W 5* presented by Rolex at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8.
Final Results: $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 Section A
1. URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor, BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane F. Clark: 0/0/43.44
2. LIGIST: 2000 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Levantos II x Robin Z, REED KESSLER (USA), Kessler Show Stables LLC: 0/0/44.11
3. ZIGALI P S: 2004 KWPN gelding by Kigali x Palfrenier, ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/44.93
4. QUIDAM'S CHERIE: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Quidam's Rubin x Lifestyle, CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Adena Springs: 0/0/46.02
5. UNEX CHAMBERLAIN Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Peter Pan, TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/0/49.34
6. DYNAMO: 2003 BWP gelding by Skippy II x Lys de Darmen, MEAGAN NUSZ (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/0/50.89
7. VINDICAT W: 2002 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Libero H, JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 0/4/44.25
8. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn, PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 0/4/45.64
9. CEDRIC: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Chambertin x Carolus Z, LAURA KRAUT (USA), Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc: 0/4/48.42
10. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant, KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/4/49.94
11. CHILL R Z: 2003 Zangersheide stallion by Chellano Z x A Lucky One, CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Alex Jayne and Maura Thatcher: 0/4/54.63
12. TIC-TAC: 2003 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Clinton x Darco, LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jane Clark: 0/4/55.74
Final Results: $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 Section B
1. VICTOR: 2002 KWPN gelding by Elmshorn x Grandeur, TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC & Torrey Pines: 0/0/44.04
2. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco, BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/44.79
3. PALOUBET: 2001 Selle Francais gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet x Voltaire, WILTON PORTER (USA), Sleepy P Ranch LLC: 0/0/44.96
4. SHOWGIRL: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Gold De Becourt x Elf III, YANN CANDELE (CAN), The Watermark Group: 0/0/47.36
5. NICE DE PRISSEY: 2001 Selle Francais stallion by Rosire x Amarpour, BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/0/50.67
6. FIFTY FIFTY 111: 2005 BWP mare by Action Breaker x Major de la Cour, ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/0/53.00
7. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin, BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 0/4/44.40
8. SPECIAL LUX: 2004 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Lux Z x Coille Mor Hill, JONATHAN MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/4/48.26
9. FLAMING STAR: 1999 AES gelding by Fairman x Unknown, CHARLIE JACOBS (USA), CMJ Sporthorse LLC: 0/4/49.32
10. URSULA XII: 2001 Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno, SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lady Harris & Lady Kirkham: 0/4/54.33
11. MIC MAC DU TILLARD: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Cruising x Galoubet A, DAVID WILL (GER), Bernadette LeJeune: 0/4/55.26
12. SANCHA LS: 2003 SLS mare by Chin Chin x Polydor, DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Daniel Bluman: 0/8/45.47