Ben Maher (GBR) crowned a season of a lifetime winning the LGCT Grand Prix final in Doha at the weekend on the superstar young stallion Explosion W and was crowned the new 2018 Champion of Champions.
It was to be a double celebration for Maher too. His London Knights squad also wrapped up the team Global Champions League title.
It was a phenomenal end to 2018 for Ben with no less than five LGCT Grand Prix wins and after Saturday's triumph the British Olympic gold medallist paid tribute to his horses, Explosion in particular, and his team:
“I can’t quite take it in to be honest. I have such a good bond with Explosion W.
“I’ve been lucky to have many great horses in my career so far, and I’ve been doing the Longines Global Champions Tour for many years now but have never been in a position to contend for the Championship. I don’t know if I’ll have another season like this - I did nothing different this year, but fortunately for me everything went right and I had a great team of horses. But it’s also to my team around me, they get us here every week - there’s a lot of people to thank behind the scenes. Explosion has been in our programme for a while but Shanghai was my first big show on him. We had quite a surprise result there and then built on that. The horses give you such confidence, but I think many riders in today’s course changed their mind - I think I even asked Harrie at one point what his thoughts were! I trust Explosion, and that’s the difference - the quality of horse that he is and the luck I’m having at the moment.
Ben Maher thanks Explosion W for his performance ph. Stefano Grasso/LGCT
“You believe you can do anything riding a horse like Explosion. He’s just such a fun horse to be around, he enjoys his work - he enjoys his job. He could probably come out now and be happy to jump again. Fortunately it’s gone my way this year. Prague will be new territory - I haven’t jumped him indoors yet, we’ll give him a break and then produce him for the Playoffs. But we’ll just enjoy this one right now and let it sink in.”
The British Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher and Poden Farms’ extraordinary Expolsion W have dominated the individual championship this year. They have not only won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome , but have taken the overall Championship title also.
“It has been an incredible season, I can’t quite believe it. It is great to be back in the top end of the sport. Explosion W is incredibly fast, I have never ridden a horse as fast without really pushing him. What a horse. Explosion is phenomenal for his age.
“I have a lot to thank Poden Farms and the Moffitt family for for supporting me, it is a team effort. To finish in style like this is something I will savour for some time. To win is a dream come true.”
Ben is also at the top of the GCL overall team championship ranking with London Knights and could take that title at the finals in Doha in Qatar in November.
Jan Tops, Founder and President LGCT commented, “No one deserved it more than Ben this season. He’s had three wins. He has two great horses in super shape and he’s the well deserved Champion of the year. He managed his horses well, he had the goal to win this - it’s the most difficult [Championship] to win over 16 legs, against all the best horses and riders in the world. You have to have a good plan, great management and of course a bit of luck but he did everything well and it’s very well deserved.
“There was a bit of pressure today, with the team for GCL, and to qualify for the Grand Prix. Explosion took a bit of time to settle [in Rome], he wasn’t quite as relexed in the first couple of rounds but as I was warming up for the Grand Prix I could feel him kicking into gear as he normally does. He jumped incredible today. I was fortunate as last to go - he’s naturally very very fast, and I made one or two mistakes in previous rounds which cost me greatly! I’m very proud of this horse.
As Jan said it’s a long season, I’ve been competing in LGCT since almost the beginning and never really come close - never had the horsepower or the number of horses, so I have a lot to thank Poden Farms for and the Moffitt family. As Jan said it’s a team effort, they are young horses - we have a strong group of grooms and riders behind me, so it’s really thanks to them.
To finish early means I can relax a bit, rest the horses and go to Doha with goals in mind. GCL is very important for the London Knights. But it’s been an incredible season for me - if someone said to me six months ago that I’d be sitting here with two 9 year old horses I would never have believed that. I can’t quite believe it to be honest. Even today, I just kept my head down, stuck to my plan, trust my horse. I have to believe that he will clear every jump, and I know he’s fast, so it’s great to be back in the top end of the sport this year. I’m really going to enjoy this moment."
The riders now head to Doha for the final round of the 17-event season. The 2018 winner is decided but Alberto Zorzi, Scott Brash and Christian Ahlmann could all finish on the podium there.
Ben will be crowned 2018 Champion of Champions and the fight for second and third continues.
In a breath-taking display of power and precision the London Knights duo of Emily Moffitt and Ben Maher stormed to a GCL Shanghai win by 27 hundredths of a second, taking the lead in the overall ranking.
With enormous pressure on the shoulders of U25 rider Moffitt and teammate Maher, the pair were able to convert their pole position from Friday's first round into a win, with the drama coming right down to the wire as Maher galloped across the finish line on the Poden Farms-owned horse Explosion W. The scarlet team were able to stay ahead of a fierce attempt from Monaco Aces' Simon Delestre and Jerome Guery, who ultimately took second, and Chantilly Pegasus’ Roger-Yves Bost and Dayro Arroyave in third.
“I’m feeling pretty awesome,” said Moffitt, “it’s my first GCL [of 2018] and it’s really exciting. I think it’s even better as I’m [in a team] with my trainer, which brings extra excitement. The U25 riders are not expected to win, so this is really cool!”
Teammate Maher said: “We had a lead from Round 1 - I knew we had to jump clear and we managed to do it today."
Asked about the GC Prague Play Offs, he said “the prize money is huge this year, and there are a lot of good riders and horses, so we’re trying to keep up with our ranking - it’s very important for us to make it to Prague.
“Its a long season - we have great horses, Emily is riding amazing so hopefully we have a good season.”
London Knights’ combination of Ben Maher and U25 rider Emily Moffitt had all the pressure on their shoulders, as the leading team heading into the final and on a score of zero. With the starting order determined by the results from Friday’s Round 1, they would have a long wait, with the pressure ever-mounting, before they would take to the arena.
Those early in had faults all over the course, but the imposing treble looked to be the most challenging combination of the competition. Cascais Charms fielded their new, but very experienced recruit John Whitaker for this leg of the Championship, who delivered the first brilliant clear on Cassinis Chaplin. Just an unlucky time fault added to their overnight score of 13, and 12 more faults from U25 rider Philip Houston dropped the Charms down to a total of 26 overall and out of the running.
Ales Opartny of the Prague Lions delivered a foot-perfect clear for the team, with the eye catching VDL Fakir drawing cheers from the crowd. This was neatly followed up by teammate Niels Bruynseels and Cas de Liberte, who rode a beautiful clear, putting the Lions back in with a chance - carrying 12 faults from their first round, but with a nervous wait to see if they could rise up the order. Madrid in Motion also pulled a double clear out the hat, after Marc Houtzager and Michael G Duffy nailed the technical course, keeping the team on their score of 8 faults from Friday.
2017 Champions Montreal Diamonds had everything to do, lying in 14th after a tricky round for the team. U25 rider Jos Verlooy picked up the reins with Igor for the GCL Shanghai final, coming off the bench for Danielle Goldstein, but had an unlucky rail at the treble, visibly disappointed as he exited the arena. Anchor Harrie Smolders made his return to the Championship in Shanghai, and truly delivered, putting in a sublime clear with top stallion Don VHP Z, thrilling the crowd who gasped as he rattled a pole at the end of the treble - luck was on the Dutch rider’s side.
Despite the tough track, many riders pulled a clear out of the bag for their team, including Lorenzo de Luca of the Rome Gladiators, Christian Ahlmann of Scandinavian Vikings, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani of Doha Fursan Qatar, Dayro Arroyave of Chantilly Pegasus, and Daniel Deusser of home city team Shanghai Swans.
St Tropez Pirates also shot up the leaderboard after a double clear from the two riders - Athina Onassis who just picked up a couple of time faults after a brilliant round on MHS Going Global, and Edwina Tops-Alexander on Inca Boy. Tops-Alexander kept her cool, managing the bouncy gelding beautifully - the elastic horse showing true class in the testing arena.
Ranking leaders Valkenswaard United carried through their four faults from Friday, but Alberto Zorzi - a rider on the team roster for three years - delivered a perfect round with Contanga, heaping the pressure on his teammate Jur Vrieling, who makes his debut on the GCL team series this season. The treble combination proved costly, with the experienced Dutch rider collecting a fence, adding a further four faults to the team total to keep them on eight.
Monaco Aces temporarily took over the lead, with best friends Simon Delestre and Jerome Guery delivering a masterclass of rounds, bringing them back up the order and into contention.
All eyes turned to the Berlin Eagles, one of the only two teams to head into the GCL Shanghai final on a zero score. First to go was Christian Kukuk and the blue-eyed Limoncello, but the troublesome treble caught them out, with the pair picking up 4 faults and putting them on a level-pegging with Monaco Aces. Olympic Champion Ludger Beerbaum had everything to do to keep the team on the podium, bringing out top mare Chiara for this crucial round. Making his return from injury last year, Beerbaum and Chiara showcased an enviable partnership, but were caught out on the final part of the treble and dropping the Eagles down to 8 faults overall.
Emily Moffitt (GBR) on Tipsy du Terral ph. Stefano Grasso / GCL
Last to go London Knights knew a double clear would secure them the win, and the crowd held their breath as the scarlet coated Ben Maher and Emily Moffitt entered the arena. First to go was U25 talent Moffitt and Tipsy du Terral, the pair tactically going for a clear round over speed. The first part of the treble came down, heaping the pressure on the shoulders of Maher who would need to go clear, and fast, to better the Monaco Aces.
Indeed an explosion of speed and power from Maher and Explosion W is what was needed, and the pair pulled out all the stops, racing around the arena but taking care to keep all the fences up. Spectators held their breath as the duo headed towards the tricky treble, but Maher showed all his experience, mastering the strides perfectly and guiding the chestnut horse to the final two fences. Time was tight, but Maher cleared the final challenges, pushing through the finish line to stop the clock just 27 hundredths of a second ahead of Monaco Aces, and securing victory.
ph. Stefano Grasso / GCL
Seven the world’s top 10 Show Jumpers will take to the Olympia Grand Hall as top-class sporting action returns to Olympia, The London International Horse Show. Europe’s most renowned riders, including seven former world number 1s, will take centre stage over five days of unmissable CSI5*-W competition from Thursday 14 – Monday 18 December 2017.
Home heroes Scott Brash and Ben Maher, winner and runner-up in the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup™ Leg, are both returning, with Ben hoping to turn the tables on his Olympic gold medal winning team-mate to take home the coveted prize in 2017. British hopes will be buoyed by crowd favourites John and Michael Whitaker, seeking to add to their extensive tally of Olympia victories.
Britain’s leading lady Laura Renwick and Guy Williams, both known for their speed against the clock, are sure to give the London fans something to cheer about, while the US-based Amanda Derbyshire, who has represented Great Britain on several occasions this year, will be looking to make her mark at her Show debut.
The international contingent is certain to put up a strong challenge against their British counterparts. Reigning Olympia Grand Prix Champion Daniel Deusser (GER) will return, alongside compatriots Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning, both regular winners on the CSI5* circuit.
France, reigning Olympic Team Champions, send a strong group of riders, including world number three Kevin Staut and former world number one Simon Delestre, as do Belgium, led by 2017 Aachen Grand Prix winner Gregory Wathelet and the always competitive twin brothers, Olivier and Nicola Philippaerts.
Fresh from being crowned Longines Global Champions Tour Champion of 2017, Dutchman Harrie Smolders will be looking to start as he ended the 2016 show, which saw him cruise to victory in the H&M Ivy Stakes on the final day. Compatriot Maikel van de Vleuten, current world number five and recent winner of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Leg in Verona joins the starters seeking to add to their current tally of Longines FEI World Cup™ points in a bid to qualify for the Final next April.
World number four, Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and fellow countryman, the notoriously speedy Emanuele Gaudiano, are sure to feature amongst the top of the leaderboards, as are 2016 Individual Olympic Silver medalist Peder Fredricson and double Longines FEI World Cup™ Final winner and 2012 Olympic Champion, Steve Guerdat.
Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward commented: “We’ve got a stellar line-up of competitors at Olympia this year, making for an exciting week of action. It’s great to be able to provide the fans with an opportunity to see the world’s best compete on British soil and with so much going on throughout the week, 2017 is set to be a fantastic event.”
British Olympic showjumper John Whitaker has been injured after falling from his horse at the Global Champions Tour event in London.
Competing on his 62nd Birthday, John started off well on the nine-year old Cassinis Chaplin. But, the stallion put in a sudden refusal, unseating him over the fence. Spectators were relieved as it was announced John was speaking with the medics and was taken to hospital for medical checks.
His son, Robert, later said the showjumper was "sore and stiff" but "should be OK".
Scott Brash and Hello Forever. photo Steffano Grasso/LGCT
However, Scott Brash and his London 2012 teammate Ben Maher took the top spots almost five years to the day since they won Olympic gold in the team jumping.
The crowd went wild as the penultimate rider Scott Brash cantered into the ring on Hello Forever. There was an audible gasp as he successfully completed a handbrake turn into fence five, but Hello Forever galloped around the remainder of the course to go into first on a heart-pounding time of 38.62s.
Ben Maher and MTF Madame X pictured together on Friday's CSI5* (1.45m)
British flags were already flying in the packed grandstands as as Ben Maher entered the ring to a huge cheer. He went for it and there was a hair’s breadth between him and Brash as he galloped to the last on MTF Madame X. Horse and rider cleared the fence to a roar from the crowd in a time of 38.86s – a mere 0.4s slower than Brash but good enough for a British 1-2.
A quick trot away from the centre of Paris, some of the most celebrated names in the sport competed for first place in the CS15* on the second day of the eighth leg of the tour. The perfect round for the first of today’s three international classes came from Ben Maher (GBR) on 13 year old bay mare Quilata who sped around in a very quick 59.91 – the only competitor to have finished under the 60 second mark.
There were 35 riders in the class with thirteen jumping the twelve fences clear, including Athina Onassis on Rackham’Jo, a duo that unfortunately picked up a time fault to finish with one penalty. Some of the riders, including Rio Olympian Carlos Lopez and the normally speedy Julien Epaillard may have treated this class as a warm-up ahead of the second round of the GCL, however this was certainly not the case for others.
Bertram Allen and GK Casper ph.Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Maher’s rhythm and very capable 13 year old mare Quilata sent him straight into first place with an impressive 59.91 on the clock. The two Irish riders, Denis Lynch on RMF Bella Baloubet and Bertram Allen on GK Casper were also hot of the pace and sped around the arena, finishing in second and fourth place respectively. Allen was the first to compete of the two and, with historic success landing a position on the Grand Prix podium in both 2015 and 2016, was very quick to turn on landing and finished in a very respectable 62.41. When it came to Lynch’s turn, it was an Irish versus Irish battle and he was up against Allen for first place. His lovely approach to the double and consistent speed around the arena meant he took two seconds off his fellow Irishman. Leopold van Asten is also worth calling out as he sat beautifully above VDL Groep Miss Untouchable allowing her to gallop beneath him and although she did her best, it wasn’t quiet enough to pip the top two to the post, jumping into third place behind Maher and Lynch.
The rest of the field was a combination of either time faults as they took the course easy, resting their horses for the remaining weekend events or riders and their horses struggling to clear some of the more challenging jumps. The tight oxer was a crucial point at fence number six and it caused headache for some as many of the horses fell into the turn, taking them too close to the top rail and in turn knocking it. Georgina Bloomberg was cheered by her son in hospitality but that wasn’t quite enough for her to jump the oxer clear, Bassem Hassan Mohammed had to retire his 11 year old grey gelding Argelith Squid after he refused it, having struggled to gain momentum from the start and Mathieu Billot, who celebrated a win yesterday on Radja des Fontaines found himself in 30th place after a run in with the jump. Eduardo Menezes was another to fall foul as he flew around the arena in a quick 60.76 but unfortunately knocked the oxer and another, to send him cascading down the leaderboard, finishing in 27th.
18th December 2016.
Scott Brash became the 15th British rider to come out on top in his home leg of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series when galloping to victory with Hello M’Lady in the Longines qualifier at Olympia in London (GBR) this evening. This was the eighth round of the 2016/2017 Western European League, and today’s result leaves the 31-year-old rider only a few points short of a qualifying spot for the eagerly-anticipated Longines Final in Omaha, Nebraska (USA) next March.
Ben Maher and Diva II Photo: Jon Stroud/FEI
The host-nation runners were in flying form, with Brash’s London 2012 Olympic gold-medal-winning team-mate, 33-year-old Ben Maher, finishing a close second with Diva while young Belgian talent, 23-year-old Nicola Philippaerts slotted into third with H&M Harley vd Bisschop. It was a frustrating result for Maher, who was also runner-up in the same event last year. “I wanted to win, but if I was going to be beaten by anyone I was hoping it would be Scott!” he said.
There were 13 into the jump-off, and it was Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson who set the pace with H&M Cue Channa who hit only the very last. Seventh to go, Maher produced the first clear in 38.85 seconds before America’s Laura Kraut and Zeremonie and John Whitaker and Ornellaia followed with foot-perfect runs but couldn’t catch him. Philippaerts, whose famous father Ludo won this prestigious competition with the legendary Darco 27 years ago, came close when breaking the beam in 39.07 seconds, but it was Brash who demoted his fellow-countryman when second-last to go.
“Ben was very fast back to the double, and it was on a blind turn which was tricky for the horses, so we had to be quick to beat him!” Brash said, after galloping home in 38.73 seconds. And when it fell apart for Germany’s Marcus Ehning and his Madrid-leg winner Comme Il Faut who were last to go, it was an all-British one-two.
“It’s very special to win in front of the home crowd, they were really behind us and it gives you that extra edge!” said Brash who now has the series Final in his sights. “I’ve never really targeted it in the past because the calendar is so full and there’s often a championship, but I’m very fortunate to have a strong team, all coming back from injury, including Hello Sanctos”, he added.
Full Results HERE
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The team picked by the British Equestrian Federation for the European Jumping Championships this week, does not include the world's top show jumper, Scott Brash. Instead, he is heading to Canada with Hello Sanctos, aiming to become the first winner of the £700,000 Rolex Grand Slam - awarded to any rider who wins successive Grands Prix at Geneva, Aachen and Spring Meadows.
Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos
The FEI European Jumping Championships (Aug 19th-23rd) in Aachen will be 19 year old Jessica Mendoza's first senior event. They are the last major championships before next year's Olympic Games and Great Britain's show jumpers face a make or break Olympic qualification bid.
Jessica, originally from Tockenham, Wilts. has recently made Eindhoven in Holland her base, in order to be closer to the top European competitions.
Jessica said, “It’s amazing, but Spirit’s jumped absolutely brilliantly this summer and deserves it. It was never in my plan at the beginning of the year but she kind of made it the plan as she just kept getting better and better each time we stepped up a level.
“We have come up from national to international competition together and then from CSI 2* to CSIO 5* and as a result I feel I know her inside out; we trust each other totally.
“I’m looking forward to competing with the rest of the team. We jumped together in Rotterdam where we not only won, but also really got on as a team which gives me great confidence.
“I’ll also have my parents with me and I just can’t thank them enough for the support they have always given me. Dad coaches me and mum consistently helps out with the horses; they have always believed in me and I’m pleased that they are going to be alongside me in Aachen and able to enjoy it.”
The Great Britain Squad
- Ben Maher with Diva II
- Jessica Mendoza with Spirit T
- Joe Clee with Utamaro d'Ecaussines
- Michael Whitaker with Cassionato
- Guy Williams with Titus II (traveling reserve)
- Robert Whitaker with Catwalk IV (non-traveling reserve)
- William Whitaker with Fandango (non-traveling reserve)
Ben Maher and Diva II at Hickstead earlier this month
Ben Maher, who was part of the Gold medal winning team at London 2012 said, "It is a previous winning combination that has been selected consisting of good horses and we are all looking forward to repeating the form we had together in Rotterdam."
There will be three Olympic qualifying places awarded from the 2015 European Championships in Aachen, with these awarded to the highest placed nations after the team final.
Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden have already qualified for Rio.
Good Luck, Team GB!
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