WELLINGTON, Fla.--Reigning Olympic champion Ben Maher of Great Britain won the CHF216,000 ($234,757) CSI4* Grand Prix during “Saturday Night Lights” on Jan. 28.over 45 competitors, 14 of which advanced to the jump-off..
Going about halfway trough the jump-off, Maher was clean on Dallas Vegas Batilly and beat the time of then leading Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam on Namaste van het Eyckeveld by one tenth of a second,
Maher finished in the eventual winning time of 38.35 seconds.
Sweetnam placed second while Kent Farrington was third on Toulayna.
Fourth went to Germany’s Richard Vogel on United Touch S, and Lacey Gilbertson was fifth on Karlin van’t Vennehof.
Maher has only been riding Dallas Vegas Batilly for four months.
“SHE'S TAKEN some time to get used to me and my system," said Maher. "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,” said 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.”
Of his second-place finish on Namaste van het Eyckeveld, Sweetnam said, “I rode my plan and I know my fellow has a really big stride, especially at the end of the course, so I trusted that it was there, and he jumped it great. Obviously, it was not quick enough but I’m very happy with him.”
All three top finishers were on new mounts, including third-place Farrington on Toulayna, a 2014 Zangersheide mare.
“I’m thrilled with the horse,” said Farrington. “She’s only 9 years old and this was her second night class ever. She’s only done a handful of classes bigger than 1.45m, so she’s made incredible progress, and to even be close to the win tonight is a sign of what a great horse she is going to be in the future.”