New York City—Sept. 28
For fans of the Global Champions Tour itching to see who would win the series title, the final grand prix of the season couldn’t have been a much more exciting class. Heading into the €300,000 Longines GCT Grand Prix of New York, just 1 point separated the series leader Pieter Devos from second-placed contender Ben Maher, and as the class progressed both riders advanced to the jump-off.
In the end Maher managed to get the edge aboard the fiery Explosion W, his mount for individual silver for the Longines FEI European Championships (the Netherlands), winning both the class and the series title. Marcus Ehning rode Cornado NRW to second in the class, and Martin Fuchs claimed third on The Sinner.
“Explosion won three five-star grand prix [classes] in a row,” said Maher, who rides for Great Britain. “It’s just a dream. One day I’m going to wake up and realize I don’t ride a horse like this. A horse like this comes around maybe once in a lifetime.”
Thirty-five riders qualified for the grand prix via this afternoon’s second round of Global Champions League competition, and seven horses found a clear way around Uliano Vezzani’s difficult tracks.
In a nail-biting jump-off, rider after rider left all the rails in the cups, battling it out over time. When it came Devos’ turn he knew the series title was on the line.
“After my clear [first] round in my grand prix I was really relieved and thought, ‘Yes, I put the pressure on!’ ” said the Belgian rider. “Seeing Explosion jumping at a team competition, I knew it would be very difficult. I’m very proud of my horse. I tried everything in the jump-off. I took all the risk. I took too much of an angle coming into the combination, and she didn’t understand. She tried.”
Devos’ mount, Claire Z, dug in her heels at the combination. Devos cleared on re-approach, and another rail put 8 faults on the board and dropped them to seventh. But Devos still finished second in the series thanks in no small part to a win at the GCT of Miami Grand Prix (Florida) earlier this season. Daniel Deusser rounded out the top three in the series.
This wasn’t Maher’s only big win today. He and London Knights teammate Fuchs kept a clean sheet earlier in the day to win the Global Champions League title for the weekend, and also the series final over the St. Tropez Pirates. Fuchs tacked up his European Championships gold medal partner Clooney 51 once again for the class, while Maher rode Explosion W, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Chacco-Blue, for the win.
But the road to gold hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
“It’s been a stressful summer—a little up and down,” said Maher. “We’ve used every rider on our team. [Under 25-rider and team owner] Emily Moffitt has counted with a double clear. We had two riders with broken bones, one transfer. You name it, everything that could have gone wrong at some point did go wrong. This just proves the strength and depth and will to win for the team.”