Ben Maher Soars in CSI4* NetJets Grand Prix
Reigning Olympic champion Ben Maher (GBR) claimed victory in the CHF216,000 NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix in front of a packed house at Wellington International during “Saturday Night Lights” on January 28. The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) welcomed forty-five international combinations to vie for top honors during the NetJets-sponsored WEF 3.
Course designer Peter Grant (CAN) built a testing track that started with a bang as five early clears promised a thrilling second round. The code was cracked on his course by fourteen advancing to a tie-breaking jump-off. Talent from Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and the United States made up the list of riders with their eye on the prize over the short course.
Appearing halfway through the original order, Maher clocked his clear round aboard Dallas Vegas Batilly, a 2013 Selle Français mare (Cap Kennedy x L’arc Triomphe *bois Margo) owned by Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright. He returned in the jump-off to chase down current leader and Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam aboard Namaste van het Eyckeveld, owned by Voquest LLC. By one tenth of a second, Maher unseated Sweetnam from the top of the leaderboard and posted an eventual winning time of 38.35 seconds.
Sweetnam settled for second while Kent Farrington (USA) took third for the home nation riding Toulayna for owner Rabbit Root Stables LLC. Fourth went to Germany’s Richard Vogel on United Touch S, and Lacey Gilbertson (USA) capped the top five riding Karlin van’t Vennehof.
Maher and Dallas Vegas Batilly have been partnered together for only four months. The mare was previously campaigned by France’s Nicolas Delmotte. “She’s taken some time to get used to me and my system. 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,” continued 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, a 2013 Belgian Warmblood gelding, Sweetnam noted, “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 podium finishers were seated on new mounts, including third-place Farrington aboard Toulayna, a 2014 Zangersheide mare.
“I’m thrilled with the horse,” said Farrington. “She’s only nine 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.”
Maher was presented as winner by Laura Southard, Melissa Dombro and Aley Russell with NetJets. To close the night, winning groom and Dallas Vegas Batilly’s caretaker Derren Lake was honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm, by Quentin Judge, Cayce Harrison and Harrison Rhodes Judge.
Top five results: CHF216,000 NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix
1. Ben Maher (GBR) & Dallas Vegas Batilly: 2013 Selle Français (Cap Kennedy x L’arc Triomphe *bois Margo)
Owner: Charlotte Rossetter & Pamela Wright
2. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & Namaste van het Eyckeveld: 2013 Belgian Sport Horse (Elvis Ter Putte x Coriall)
Owner: Shane Sweetnam and Voquest LLC
3. Kent Farrington (USA) & Toulayna: 2014 Warmblood mare (Toulon x Parco)
Owner: Kent Farrington LLC & Rabbit Root Stables LLC
4. Richard Vogel (GER) & United Touch S: 2012 Westphalian stallion (Untouched x Lux Z)
Owner: Julius-Peter Sinnack
5. Lacey Gilbertson (USA) & Karlin van’t Vennehof: 2010 Belgian Warmblood mare (Fantomas De Muze x Quasimodo Van De Molendreef)
Owner: Seabrook LLC