Wellington, Fla.—Jan. 25
The world's best battled it out at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center with a one-two finish for Great Britain in the $125,000 Fidelity investments Grand Prix at the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival on Jan. 25.
Ben Maher and Scott Brash, the top two ranked riders in the world, finished on top of an impressive field of horses and riders in an exciting ten-horse jump-off.
Maher, the No. 2-ranked rider in the world, came out on top with his mount, Cella while Brash, the current No. 1-ranked rider in the world, finished second behind his Olympic teammate with Ursula XII. Alvaro de Miranda of Brazil and AD Norson placed third.
See Maher and Brash go head to head in the jump-off...
Guilherme Jorge of Brazil set the course for 45 competitors on Saturday night with 10 clear rounds and a difficult jump-off, in which the top two were the only combinations to clear the short course.
Brash and Ursula XII, owned by Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham, were the first pair to clear the course in 39.05 seconds, but had to settle for second place when Maher and Jane Clark's Cella took the challenge and bested their time in 38.68 seconds. De Miranda and AD Norson, owned by de Miranda and Victory Equestrian, completed the fastest four-fault round in 39.61 seconds to place third. McLain Ward and Sagamore Farm's Rothchild finished fourth with 4 faults in 40.06 seconds.
Maher began riding Cella, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Cento, during the FTI WEF circuit last winter and got his first big win with her in last year's Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, a $100,000 class. “It’s a lucky place here for me and Cella at the moment,” Maher said. “She had a long break after Geneva and then our first class was this week in the WEF [Challenge Cup],where she felt better than ever. I decided not to do the jump-off because I knew it was going to be fast, and save her for this evening. She’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime horse so I want to save her for the big occasions. Luckily, between the whole team, we made a good decision because she jumped great tonight.
"She's just a phenomenal jumper. She does it in her own style, and the more I let her get on with it, the better she is," Maher said of Cella. "It was a good course tonight. I thought it was big for a three-star, but it has to be big with the horses and competition that is here. [In the jump-off],I did what I could do and not what I couldn't. It was a race between me and Scott tonight."
Brash's mount, Ursula XII, is a 13-year-old Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn. Brash got the ride on Ursula just after the London Olympics in 2012, but explained that it took some time for them to figure each other out.
“It took us probably six months to a year to just gel as a partnership. I wanted to change her a bit to my style and I tried to adapt to what she likes, but I have to say she’s a joy to ride and she’s such a sweet horse in every way. She’s a real top horse,” Brash stated.
“Ben and I are very good friends,” Brash acknowledged. “I think it’s a rivalry in a really good way. He wants to beat me as bad as I want to beat him. It's good for Great Britain.”
“I've been lucky, same as Scott, with my team, my horses behind me now, and the support from Jane Clark,” said Maher. “It has made all the difference in the past 12 months. It just proves how much we need the owners and the sponsors to support us and how much success that can bring, and we both work hard.”
De Miranda was happy with his third place finish aboard AD Norson, a 13-year-old Selle Francais stallion by Quidam de Revel that he has ridden since the horse was 4. The top placing was a happy end to a bad day for de Miranda after getting news about an injury to one of his top horses.
De Miranda shared that AD Rahmannshof's Bogeno, with whom he won last year's $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI, has sustained an injury that will keep him out of competition for a minimum of six months. Despite the bad news, de Miranda had a good night with AD Norson and has high hopes for his season.
"He's a very nice horse," de Miranda said. "In the beginning I was using him as a speed horse, and then since 2010 I started upgrading him to the bigger classes and he did very well. He was in the Pan American Games where we had a silver medal with the team, but the ground was not too good and after that he wasn't coming back too strong to this level. Here he is jumping really good, and he's back to what he was before. He's a really nice horse, very competitive, and I love to ride him."
De Miranda commented on the level of competition at this year's FTI WEF, stating, "I like to come here for two reasons: to build up horses, and to bring along young horses. When you come here for three months it is like spending one year in Europe. You can do a lot, and you can get to know the horse. They come back to Europe in very good shape. It is top level sport. You have the best horses and riders here. It is very competitive."
$125,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix
1. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin, BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 0/0/38.68
2. URSULA XII: 2001 Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno, SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lord and Lady Harris & Lord and Lady Kirkham: 0/0/39.05
3. AD NORSON: 2001 Selle Francais stallion by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur, ALVARO DE MIRANDA (BRA), Victory Equestrian Sport BV & Alvaro de Miranda: 0/4/39.61
4. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant de l'Ile, MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 0/4/40.06
5. CAFINO: 2003 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Cardento 933 x Roderik 856, ALEXANDER ZETTERMAN (SWE), Alexander Zetterman: 0/4/41.46
6. CHECKMATE 4: 1995 Hanoverian gelding by Contender x Pik Bube II, MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), Octavia Farms LLC: 0/4/42.70
7. EVENING STAR: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Coriano x Lenz, HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS (USA), Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo: 0/4/46.41
8. VICTOR: 2002 KWPN gelding by Elmshorn x Grandeur, TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC & Torrey Pines: 0/8/39.77
9. UNEX CHAMBERLAIN Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Peter Pan, TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/8/45.00
10. ZERNIKE K: 2004 KWPN gelding by Sam R 60 x H Topas, BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/27/62.64
11. MIC MAC DU TILLARD: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Cruising x Galoubet A, DAVID WILL (GER), Bernadette LeJeune: 1/80.25
12. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn, PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 1/81.75